We kicked this past week off with a 16 hour drive Michigan. While we started out strong…after popping into a rest stop in Western PA (‘COVID country’ says Mike) and finding it packed with un-masked people…we decided that we’d just try to drive straight through, only stopping for gas.

My city boys were not impressed with peeing on the side of the road. I don’t know how kids decide this stuff, but this was the trip they both decided to become major prudes.

This was also the trip we ran out of water, soooo…that helped things somewhat.

Eventually — like once we were safely over the bridge in the Upper Peninsula — we stopped for the night, with water and bathrooms and a hotel with all sorts of comforting, COVID precautions. Our room also had a sliding glass door with a direct view of the lake, which we kept open all night, and the smell of home almost overwhelmed me completely.

It’s funny how deeply embedded the concept of home really is. The smells, the sounds, the look of it — it’s in my blood, my bones, my DNA. I grew up wanting to escape into the big, wide world…and yet, whenever I come back home…there I am, whole, my missing pieces falling back into place.

It was good to be here this week in particular. This was the week that many cities — including Philly — announced their back-to-school “plan”. In Philadelphia, our choices are either a virtual-only school that will be run at the district level….or some sort of A/B plan, that involves kids going back to school two days a week, and then having virtual learning the other three days per week.

The details of the plan were…vague. There was some language about “limiting class sizes to 25 where feasible” and dropping plexiglass partitions onto tables if there aren’t any desks.

25 is still a big number.

I think about the classrooms that don’t have windows, and how Pax would run up to his favorite teachers on the playground, getting scooped up into the biggest hugs. I try to imagine his classmates all wearing masks for hours at a time, and resisting the urge to touch each other. I wonder if Raines, almost 13, is even included in the “child” risk numbers for coronavirus, or if he is too old.

I am baffled by this plan. There is nothing that sounds safe — or sane — about this plan. It’s not even a plan that helps working parents: two days per week? It sounds, like one of my friends so succinctly put it, “like we are all being forced to walk the plank”.

I spent most of Tuesday crying. I think…after months of attempting to take this pandemic stuff one day at a time…I think I finally started to mourn. I suspect our old ways of living have irrevocably changed, and while I am hopeful for the future…there is both so much at stake and so much we have lost.

So on Tuesday, I cried. Some of the tears were quiet tears, as I looked up online charter schools and learned about PA’s homeshooling requirements. Some of the tears were Dynasty-worthy tears where Mike got up from his laptop and Raines and Pax came running over and my three guys literally held onto me — held me up — as I sobbed.

I still don’t know what we’re going to do.

I’ve been texting with my girls and having Zoom call meetings with our friends…and we are all at a loss. We are all walking this plank.

I find myself reading Charter school charters and hating myself — I’m a public school girl, thanks. I’m the daughter of educators!! My Dad would roll in his grave if I send my kids to a freaking charter school. Equal education for everyone is what we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Charter schools go against everything I believe in.

I read the IG posts by @jillianstarrteaching, a 2nd grade teacher who is able to better verbalize all of the things I am thinking about schools re-opening. At a minimum, I would hope that any re-opening plans address the questions she has laid out here.

Philadelphia’s plan does not.

Her follow-up post, here, addresses a few options that could be used going forward. “It’s clear NO plan is desirable” she starts, and then makes a solid case for virtual learning — with additional resources strategically deployed. I can’t stop thinking about it.

The NYTimes also came out with an article I can’t stop thinking about: Schools Beat Earlier Plagues with Outdoor Classes. We Should, Too. Even a recent coronavirus study in China has only one documented case of outdoor air transmission…out of 7,000 kids.

It is so clear that we need innovation, we need creativity, we need our out-of-the-box thinkers.

Instead, I’m afraid we just have Tricia, our public-school airline flight attendant.

Yup. We’re all just walking the plank.


Snake Print Mule-Espadrilles, A Secret Sale, Blackstar Film Fest & Good Trouble

Um. I like these. Normally a shoe that pulls in three trends at once does NOT make it to the top of my wish list…but these Kelsi Dagger – just go with me here — Snakeprint Mule-Espadrilles are cuuuuuute. I like that the espadrille bottom is almost striped (is that a fourth trend?) and that the snake print upper is comfy, stretchy canvas.

The sweetest dreams. I’m more than a little obsessed with these pointelle Madewell PJs. Wow.

The sale I’m shopping right now? J.Crew. This denim dress looks like a designer one I left behind a few years back (and regretted ever since), this silk top is cute and wayyyy more affordable than my beloved Cami NYCs, and I don’t know why I love this t-shirt dress so much but I do. Also, if you haven’t yet snapped up this linen tee, it’s one of my favs.

A fresh twist on hoops. A reader turned us on to Black-owned business Cindy Liebel, and now I can’t stop thinking about these geometric, rectangular hoops. You can pick your color and size (I’m thinking tall, yellow gold) and they’re both beautiful and edgy.

Secret Sale. Adidas just sent over a special code to take an extra 25% off these Stan Smiths (with pink trim), this swingy pink hoodie, this classic track jacket, or these neon red Ultraboost 20s with code ‘EXTRA25’.

Cute new swimwear brand. Anyone heard of Frankie’s Bikinis? I just discovered them, and am obsessed with the cuts — so much more interesting and the bottoms look really flattering. Reviews say to size up one size.

Perfect for family photos. I just came across these Pendelton beach towels (sized large for two people) and swooned. If you are thinking about family photos this summer (and you should — most photographers are hurting right now) these would be a great addition.

It’s Fashun, Brenda. What if I told you…that you, too, could be the proud owner of a white, eyelet parka, complete with beaded cuffs and ruffled balaclava? Sign me up, you say? That’s what I thought. And the best part? It’s only $3665. My work here is done.

Pop some popcorn, Aug 20-26th. Blackstar Film, an arts organization that celebrates the storytelling traditions of the African diaspora and global communities of color, is having an online film festival Aug 20 – 26th. I’ve heard Blackstar Films described as a “source of unbelievable joy, community and creation” and I’m picking up my tickets here. Included in this year’s lineup is a documentary that originally came out in 1970, but was quickly banned. It’s an examination of the colonization of African Art in the British Museum, and the film-maker had gained some seriously unprecedented access to the secret vaults in the museum. The entire lineup looks amazing — and it’s not ALL documentaries, but I am looking forward to seeing Coded Bias, a documentary that follows the MIT researcher who realized that facial recognition software does not see dark-skinned faces accurately. You can read more about the film festival (and see the full line-up) here.

‘Good trouble.’ John Lewis, an absolute giant among men, died on Friday. The NYT ran a piece on his life, and it is an amazing read. I especially love his description of ‘good trouble’ — that’s a phrase that I’m now going to make a common one in our household. Watch Good Trouble, the documentary, here.

More on defunding the police. We’ve been talking for weeks now about what this really means, and I can’t stop thinking about the NYT’s recent article, I’m a Black Police Officer. Here’s How To Change the System. It’s a thought-provoking read.

Coming up next week….it’s a big week, Gang. Next Friday, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale preview drops — which means we get to see EVERYTHING in this year’s Anni Sale (it’s not yet shoppable, tho) and we’ll be putting together wishlists and outfit collages to help get you guys get ready for the sale. We’re also launching the rest of our collection with Voloshin…and it’s all prints. You can see a sneak peek on our IG, here. Lastly, we’re dropping Our Guide to Summer Essentials — a collection of the pieces and products each of our contributing editors swears by to make the most of summer…but only to newsletter subscribers.

Like fun emails? Per usual, our newsletter subscribers will be the first to know…everything. They’ll have first access to the Voloshin prints, first looks at our Nordstrom Anniversary Sale coverage, and they’re the only ones to get our Guide to Summer Essentials.

Why?

Because our newsletter is the best way for us to be in charge of our own destiny. We hate how reliant we are on social media platforms (especially Facebook), and so our newsletter is the only way we can communicate directly with our readers without worrying about (or paying for) social media algorithms. We really value this relationship, so if you have already subscribed to our newsletter…thank you. We are constantly working to make our newsletter better — more helpful, more bonus content — and we’re always open to suggestions.

If you haven’t yet subscribed, I hope you consider joining us! You can subscribe to our newsletter here.

Ok Gang — I’m off my newsletter soapbox. Happy weekend.

xo,

S

37 COMMENTS

  1. Lol why would you call western PA Covid Country? We have had very few cases, much less than Philly. And everyone is very much so wearing masks. A lot of western PA is spread out and country. Any rest stop would have been perfectly fine to stop at.

  2. I feel you on the sudden grief. I think it’s the realization that the sacrifice since March has just not amounted to much and there is much sacrifice to come. I’m pregnant with my 3rd, due in October, and it really hit me this past week that it may really not be safe for our out of state parents to come for the birth. I can’t quite imagine not having my mom and dad here for that but here we are.

  3. Shana, as per usual, thank you for your honesty. I also spent the day after my school districts fall plan announcement either in tears or in the verge. It’s all so overwhelming. I am used to listening to my Spidey-mom sense and letting it lead the way…but it’s so hazy right now. I know that with a little time the right answer for us will float to the top, but with it will come mourning what we’ve already lost and will continue to lose, as you said. I’m so looking forward to when all of this is a distant memory, but until then, thank you, again for your honesty and fashion picks…I need them both! xoxo

  4. Could you please please do a quick post with tips for Covid roadtripping? We are considering a 15 hour drive to see my MIL (we will test and quarantine first), and would also like to drive straight through. I would love to know what time of day you decided to leave, how you approached packing (esp packing food), and how you kept the kids sane.

  5. You described so well how I’m feeling, Shana. Our district just announced online learning only for first quarter, and I cried, even though I’m mostly relieved. I just have a broken heart for my kiddos, who are in middle and high school. They are missing so freaking much. (Cue my sobbing.) A friend of mine, whose uncle lived through WWII, told her that he didn’t go to school for three years — and he and his friends all turned out OK. That gave me a lot of perspective. We are in extraordinary times right now, but we will get through it, just like my friend’s uncle. Cheers to supporting each other every step of the way. xx

  6. Exactly. I keep thinking that the entire country – and possibly like half the world! – is going to have a rough/weird/subpar academic year for kids. So I can’t stress that much about my individual kids falling behind. We’ll all patch together something this year & catch up in future years.

  7. We, too, have a hybrid model or distance learning (but for the whole year) option. I’m choosing hybrid because I can’t imagine distance learning for the whole year. And if I’m honest, I bet we’re going to have to start off with distance learning since my county will probably end up on the CA watchlist soon (that’s the barometer we’re working with). Sigh. We can all do only what we can do.

  8. He called Western PA covid country because it is. Although I’m guessing they were farther north than Pittsburgh, where I live, the numbers of new cases have exploded in Allegheny County. Of course people in a rest stop could be from anywhere, including their own “covid country,” which exacerbates the problem if people aren’t wearing masks.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer about schools: they all suck. My son isn’t school aged yet, but we had to make a somewhat similar decision about childcare, although the school decision has other complicating factors. It’s a lot: your own kids’ safety, and emotional, social, developmental, and academic wellbeing; the same for their peers; safety of school staff; the impact of your decision on the community; your own emotional wellbeing; ability to work; your family’s safety…You didn’t mention it, but I’m guessing embedded in your thought process about equal education is your commitment to being anti-racist, and I’ve seen raging debates about how best to factor that in as well. Good luck with your decision. No matter what you decide, it will feel wrong and right at the same time, but don’t second guess it. You’ll feel better after making it and it gets implemented after a few weeks.

  9. Love your weekend posts, Shana. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your family with us (since ANMJ days!) We have taken in a few family members since COVID began, so we are busting at the seams. But ALL of us are going to love the Blackstar Film Festival. Buying the week set of tickets now! My boys are just slightly younger than yours… Can you update us on what you are looking at as family watched?

  10. Below is a link by the American Academy of Pediatrics concerning children and Covid 19. It is definitely worth your time and muddling through some of the technical terms. Enough time has passed where they can start taking measurements of disease in children and other populations. I think the article will help those who are very afraid for their kids.

    One other issue that I try to remember is that we must realize that though there is no easy solution for this, there will never be a solution that is safe for all. But there never has been for anything in this world. It’s tragic, but the truth. There will always be people who are more susceptible to disease, drugs and alcohol, suggestion etc. There is no magic bullet for Covid 19. Not even the vaccine will cover everyone, or even prevent disease 100% of the time, especially if Covid 19 follows typical coronavirus patterns which are responsible for many of your average colds.

    https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2020/07/08/peds.2020-004879

  11. It seems like we are all grappling and trying to deal with how to go back to school. I’m wondering if there would be value in stepping back a little and shifting our thinking. Would it really be so bad for kids to miss a year or two of school while we all figure out how to deal with this thing? Could we, as a society and community, pull together for the next 1-2 years to figure out how to care for our kids while some of us work and some of us care for the children and not worry about “school”? This is a global problem that will require new solutions and likely new ways of doing things. Sometimes it takes a minute (or 18 months) to figure out what to do. Creativity and innovation take time – without time they cannot happen. Maybe we’re clinging to old ideals a little too tightly, myself included.

  12. I love reading your weekend posts. Please keep writing. We were impacted by the virus way back in March so I’m sure it colors our perspective; making us feel grateful just to be alive and able to parent our kids… or at least that’s what I tell myself when I can’t see any significant (and much needed) alone-time in my future. If you’re interested, I wrote about our experience here https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/contests/49/submissions/24356/

    • CHRISTY. Girl, that story you wrote is terrifying (and so well done). I read it out loud to Mike, and almost couldn’t get through the tears. Holy shit. I am so glad that you guys are ok, and I am so freaking sorry you had to go through this. Thank you – so much – for sharing your story. It certainly puts things into sharp perspective. xoxoxoxoxox

  13. The science about Covid and children is far from settled and it’s wild to state otherwise. Almost immediately after publishing those guidelines, the AAP had to do damage control and walk them back. They also have no clue about the state of public education in America, which is underfunded, understaffed, and under resourced. When I read their guidelines, I thought of a public K-6, majority minority school I taught in last year that was an old office building. Kindergarten classes had 30+ students each and used the old CEO offices around the perimeter of the building as classrooms, while grades 1 – 6 constructed makeshift classrooms of 35 – 40 students out of the old cubicle partitions in the empty middle space. Students play in the street for recess because there is no playground. The AAP guidelines are so irrelevant to that school (and many others) that it’s laughable. I also think of cramped, poorly-ventilated special education classrooms where each student has a one on one aid and needs a high level of assistance, resulting in a poorly ventilated space shared by several adult staff members, exactly what the guidelines say to avoid. The truth is we could safely and equitably open schools if the federal government: (1) didn’t historically treat public schools as warehouses to store children while extracting labor from working parents and allocate resources accordingly, (2) hadn’t squandered working people’s sacrifices this past spring and put in place national testing and contact tracing plans based on science instead of delusions, (3) provided economic relief directly to families rather than businesses, (4) properly funded public health departments (5) passed rent/mortgage forgiveness, (6) hadn’t demanded labor from sectors it classified as essential while providing no supports to make that labor safe, and (7) stopped treating healthcare as nothing more than leverage over workers. The government has done none of those things and here we are: working people are up S creek and the government will only give us the paddles if we go back to work, risks be damned. Ivanka Trump certainly isn’t sending her kids to public school.

  14. As of now, school is scheduled to return to normal. This is only possible because Berlin flattened the curve before opening back up. There is no way I would send my boys to school if things weren’t somewhat under control. Nobody really knows what the long term effects of Covid-19 are and I won’t play Russian roulette with my kids’ health. If cases rise, schools will go back to distance learning.

  15. Christy, your essay was so interesting. I’m glad your husband recovered. Did you fare better with the illness than he did? Were your kids ok? It’s a good perspective to read; I’m sure your viewpoint on the whole pandemic is different than those of us who haven’t experienced it firsthand. Thanks for sharing your story.

  16. Hi Bethany, yes, I did better than my husband and didn’t require hospitalization. My cough lasted about two weeks and I never had a fever. My kids had intermittent, elevated temperatures for about three days but nothing other than that. They said my husband probably has some minor lung scarring but no functional damage, and no other major health complications so far. The doctors credited his youth and healthy lifestyle choices with his clean recovery.

  17. Grief indeed. Thank you for sharing. I think this was the week that every parent realized the weight of this situation for our kids, our work, our lives. And I spent last night crying about the children who will be left behind during all of this. There will be so many.

  18. Christy, thank you for sharing your story. I am so happy to hear that you and your family are on the mend. However, I am so very sorry that you went through this. So many families. So many people- children, teens, young adults, adults, the elderly…I think of all the lives that have been and are being impacted. And that is why my tears come. It all feels like so much. My heart hurts. Sending you and your family lots of love and intentions for ongoing good health.

  19. I hit a wall today. The tears came like a huge tsunami and have not really stopped. So much grief. My heart hurts for my small family unit, my children, my parents, my friends, my community, and the world at large. I run a non-profit and I have seen first hand the irreparable damage this virus is costing on so many fronts. I worry about school opening. I worry about school remaining closed and the food insecurity, the higher risk of abuse and neglect for some children, the parents who will be unable to work, the emotional health of children…And it is all just too much. Yet here we are. Thank you for naming this Shana.

  20. Shana, Thank you for writing about this with your characteristic and moving honesty. The situation in school districts all over the country is appalling…and very similar. It’s horrifying that so many parents have been put in this position.

    On a different note, I did want to say: Did you or any other TME writers/readers see the writeup of Robin DiAngelo’s much-touted (including on this blog) White Fragility in today’s New York Times magazine? Apparently part of her shtick as she tours around is telling people that rational thinking is a white thing. Gosh, I’m an English professor and when Harriet Beecher Stowe says crap like that, all my students know it’s racism when they see it. Do you still want to support this woman’s ideas?

  21. Teacher here, and I have so many questions. I live in a state where we are open, our state has had days of over 15,000 new cases. Schools are opening for in-person classes with a weird hybrid of students being able to do e-learning (not sure how that is going to work), or virtual school in the county I live in. My kids will be going back to school because they just need to get out of the house and I have to work. Is this the right decision? I don’t know. Am I worried? Absolutely. As the time gets closer all I can think about is who will be wearing masks, who will complain when I do, will my kids wear their mask while they Are in school? What about their friends, other students and their teachers? Who is putting my children at risk because they believe it is against their freedom to wear a mask? All kinds of questions.

  22. I find myself not just mourning my old life and routine and kids’ school communities, but unfortunately also my trust in people to do the right thing. I work in public health (though not on COVID) and the cultural dissonance around seeing the pandemic as a crisis and utilizing the only real tools we have right now (masks and social distancing) is breaking my damn heart. I’m truly heart broken at the selfishness and ignorance of so many people- especially when I see other countries doing such a better job controlling the epidemic (hi New Zealand! Are you hiring?).

  23. I am at an absolute loss for what to do about school this year. I’m heartbroken for my kids about the whole situation. My kids do go to a charter school (I have a whole soapbox speech about school in Philadelphia, too!😂 Charter school is what is best for our family, though) and they haven’t released a plan yet. I desperately want my kids to go back to class. Both of their grades have suffered as a result of distance learning. One is currently doing online summer school. Online learning, quite frankly, sucks in my house. And they’re in 10th and 11th graded. Will this affect college for them? My girls are going into 8th grade. What will their final year of elementary school be like? Will they have to miss out on all of the fun things that go along with it with their friends? It’s all such a nightmare and I truly don’t know what is best for us at all. It does give me a little comfort to know that I am not alone in my confusion and sadness over this. I guess all we can do is try to hang in there and hope for the best!

  24. Just wanted to note that charter schools are public schools. I know that’s not the main point here, but an FYI for those who don’t know!

  25. As a teacher and parent who’s school is opening early August, this article is helpful. Small study sizes but it is a start at data collection and analysis. Thanks for sharing.

  26. How about those of us who have the resources to keep our children at home do so? So that the children who desperately need it can go safely? And that we financially support ANY school (public, private, charter) that opens their doors to those kids and protects their teachers? Let’s face it: 99% of this blog’s readers can sacrifice some financial comfort, some convenience, some career opportunities for the sake of the vulnerable among us, if we actually mean what we say. Our kids are going to be fine. It might just mean dropping some privileges we have in order to do the work of teaching them for awhile, but we can. Maybe a few less outfits and trips? I’m not weeping for the kids who are going to miss some fun opportunities or that great teacher or that sweet college prospect. I’m weeping for the kids who won’t eat or won’t have a book read to them or won’t be safe. Come on. Drop off some Clorox wipes and masks at your local school, tell them you can handle the kids for a year, and do your wartime duty.

  27. A Parker – your take is mine too… but I still waiver… my two boys and I have our ups and downs, my patience wears so thin I almost fall and then I get back up…March – June was straight up trauma … but for the greater good, for those who need it, for the teachers and the vulnerable, the children who are suffering – that is my underlying reason. Because if I close my eyes and think of the children with water in their cereal…. I totally lose it.

    Otherwise honestly I would have thrown my kids to the coyotes which were basically roaming here in April, prob just another weird covid occurrence…But yah… not gonna lie!

    And that being said, yes yes yes to innovation, creativity and Bohemia in the form of outdoor classrooms…

    I actually had planned to raise funds to support our schools to roll this out, bc this districts parents would give an arm and a leg to see their children learning (out of the house), but sadly so much red tape…

    It’s time to take down the tape, let us creatives and moms take over….I mean the virus would have been long gone if we were in charge!

  28. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am an education researcher focused on inequality and a public school parent. What’s happening right now is beyond devastating and will have lasting effects on public education, unfortunately. I really appreciate that you are grappling with what to do publicly. Please consider keeping your voice and children in the district. They lose enrollment funds otherwise, and importantly, if you are able, use your voice in the system to ask for better services (hybrid or distance) for all kids. This article discusses exactly this dilemma well https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/15/opinion/coronavirus-school-reopen-devos.html#click=https://t.co/VgBRLHxiN6

    Also, check out this forthcoming podcast, “Nice White Parents,” it sets out to illustrate the power white people have in setting the standards around public goods (here, school) and asks us to consider at every turn how to best share or wield it. Thank you 🙂

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/23/podcasts/nice-white-parents-serial.html#click=https://t.co/JGIa6p3Zh4

  29. Same exact thought while reading. In Philadelphia, charter schools are public schools. They also serve primarily low income and Black children. Charter schools can de-couple housing and education in ways that cannot otherwise be done quickly and in ways that can improve educational equity regardless of ability to pay for a private school or a gentrified/high-income neighborhood. Your off-putting comments are true about for-profit charters in other areas of the country, but not Philadelphia. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/02/20/theres-real-progressive-case-supporting-charter-schools/

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