It finally pays to be Type A.

Well, I mean, it has always literally paid—I am an editor, after all.

But this virus, this pandemic, this enormous scare that has folks frozen has launched my “clamp down” mode, my deadline-oriented “this is what we are going to do now” mode.

That said, the three of us went to work.

Today’s lesson: Find groceries for $20. (Or as my father says, a lesson in money and banking.)

I took the third-grader and the fifth-grader, and we walked up the street to the organic supermarket (bringing our own cloth bag, of course). After scrubbing the cart with a cleansing wipe (something I admit to not doing before this all started), I told them we need to get as many items as we can, all healthy, for this relatively small sum.

The 8-year-old went directly to the cheese aisle and picked his favorite spread, a champagne-and-cheddar mix that seems so inappropriate these days. Immediately, the 11-year-old knocked that choice. “It’s $5.99!” he announced. “That’s practically all our money.”

He wandered over to the vegetables, and got an onion ($1) and two tomatoes ($3). A bunch of radishes ($2.49). I moved to the pasta aisle, and we took the last bag of rigatoni ($2.99) and a jar of plain tomato-and-basil sauce ($3.49). A giant tub of vanilla yogurt was a steal at $2.99.

Why do I feel like a graduate student all over again?

The 11-year-old added it up: $15.96. The 8-year-old turned and eyed that cheese …

Picking through the rest of the selections, he found a chunk of Maple Leaf Gouda for $2.38 and got a nod from his brother. They split the change.

When we got home, I was rifling through ideas of what to do tomorrow when I hit pay dirt.

On the book shelf, behind the manila envelopes and packing tape and—hey, look at that, a container of Lysol wipes!—I discovered and dusted off a ring of laminated words in English with Hebrew transliterations that the older boys’ Hebrew teacher had made for them maybe 10 years ago.

They were color-coded, 1-inch by 3-inches; it must have taken her weeks to put it together.

Sure enough, there was an entire section on fruits and vegetable, along with colors, months, days of the week, clothing—all kinds of things to keep us busy next week.

There’s gotta be 200 words on this ring. If we practice five words a day, that’s 40 days of words.

Forty days? Forty days!

Are we grappling with the outbreak of disease, or do we need to start building an ark?

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).

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