Stay-at-Home Front

Day 16: Duct tape, birthdays and brisket

See what kids can do when they’re bored?

Homemade barbell out of a kids' hockey stick. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Homemade barbell out of a kids' hockey stick. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk is managing editor of the U.S. bureau of JNS.

I was at CVS when it opened at 7—me and two other customers. We went in one at a time, keeping our distance, though headed to the exact same place: the cleaning aisle.

Nothing. Then on to the paper goods. Still nothing.

I sighed. Fine. I grabbed a few things, got out of there and briskly walked the few blocks home.

Inside the garage with my plastic bags, and being careful to use my jacketed elbow, I knocked the button that closes the door. I watched as it slowly shut, the budding trees and morning sun disappearing.


I’m back in my musty garage, filled with tools, empty boxes, an unused wagon, the lawnmower, balls of all sizes. I feel like I just survived a pack of rabid wolves, even though I didn’t encounter anyone on the way back.

Off go the face mask and kitchen gloves. I shove them in the pocket of my jacket, which I drape over the adjustable basketball hoop to air out.

I turn to my “sorting table,” the top of a plastic bin where I’ve put hand sanitizer (one we found nearly new, stashed near the sidewalk chalk) and disinfecting wipes. I use the hand san, then take items out of the shopping bags and wipe them down, moving them to the “clean” side. I am trying to do this just like Michigan doctor Jeffrey Van Wingen showed on the YouTube cleaning video that went viral (you know, the one where he loses a tomato down the drain).

My toe bumps something, and I have to laugh—my kids took a hockey stick and duct-taped two 5-lb. aerobic weights (mine, of course) to each end, making a homemade barbell. They were nervous at first when I discovered it, wondering how I’d react. But I thought it was great. Clever.

See what kids can do when they’re bored?

Spring break starts today—right before the Passover and Easter holidays—so all those children with too much time on their hands now have even more of it. By the end of the week, probably everything I own will have turned into something else, but this is where we are right now.

We did go out yesterday and not to get groceries. All six of us piled into the car together for the first time in three weeks. We went a couple of towns over to drop off a birthday gift for one of our young cousins; she’s turning 8. We pulled in front of the house, placed the present on the stoop, beeped, waved and left.

I mean, how can you not celebrate a child’s birthday, even in the age of corona?

We drove back—or should I say, my teenager drove there and back. He was ready to take his driving test when all this started, and so now he practices occasionally. I don’t know if it’s good or bad that there are no other cars on the road; I mean, they’ll come back eventually, and then it’s a whole new ball game.

But it makes me feel better for now, not to have him dodge traffic. Funny, you try so hard to protect your kids from everything … and then a pandemic comes along. How do you prepare for that?

Speaking of preparations, there are only two days until the Passover seder. Two days to cook, clean and get ready, even though it’s immediate family only. Not a rough crowd, that’s for sure; no one will judge my roast chicken.

Yes, chicken. Not brisket because that’s what my mother always makes. She and my father will eat theirs all by themselves. I’ve never attempted it, and this really isn’t the time to try, so I’ll play it safe. Chicken and potatoes, with a requisite green vegetable.

That is, unless the kids can figure out how to buy, butcher and brown a brisket in the next 48 hours. You never know.

Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.

This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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