Category Archives: Children

Roundup: Bowtie Cinema, Leveling The Field, Melissa & Doug, More


Movie theaters — remember them?! — are back.

The Bow Tie “Ultimate Royale” multiplex on US 1 — just over the border in Norwalk — reopens tomorrow. Features include “Monster Hunter,” “The Croods,” “Wild Mountain Thyme,” “Elf,” The Midnight Sky,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Honest Thief” and “Tenet.”

The experience will be different than in pre-pandemic days. For example:

  • 100% reserved seating …
  • … but only 50% capacity
  • A temporary waiver of all advanced ticketing fees
  • Selling seats in an alternating pattern so each customer has an empty seat on either side
  • Contact-free purchasing of tickets and concession items
  • Mandatory face masks (unless eating or drinking at your seat)
  • Plexiglas barriers at box office and concession
  • Frequent cleaning
  • Limitations on restroom and lobby capacities.

You can also book a private movie party” for up to 20 guests.

No word on whether you will still pay $22 for a 10-pound box of Jujubes. (Hat tip: Mark Mathias)


Christmas caroling — remember that?! — returns to the Unitarian Church this Saturday (December 19, 3 to 4 p.m.).

It’s COVID-conscious of course: in the large parking lot, with masks and social distancing required.

In Unitarian spirit, there will be a mix of secular songs and Christmas carols. Everyone will use phone flashlights to sing “Silent Night” at dusk. Feel free to bring an instrument too!.

In the holiday spirit, if you want to join but don’t want to actually join people, email events@uuwestport.org for the Zoom link.

Not quite the Unitarian Church parking lot, but you get the idea.


Chloe Hackett is a Staples High School sophomore. She’s an athlete too.

As she and her family searched for a way to help others during the pandemic, they found Leveling the Playing Field. The non-profit seemed perfect.

It collect new and gently used sports and playground equipment, then distribute it to needy youth organizations. And it was founded by Syracuse University alums — Chloe’s parents’ alma mater.

“My sisters and I play field hockey, ice hockey and softball year round,” Chloe says.

“Sports have taught us teamwork, discipline, commitment, determination and how to compete. They’ve given us an after-school outlet, and the opportunity to make friends. We are fortunate to live in an amazing town with so many opportunities, access to a wide variety of sports and the equipment to play them.”

This weekend (Saturday and Sunday, December 19-20, 10 a.m. to noon, at The Granola Bar), the Hacketts are collecting donations.

Cleats, field hockey sticks, lacrosse equipment, bats, hockey skates, footballs, softball gloves — it will all make a difference. Click here for a full list of acceptable and non-acceptable items.

If you can’t make it this weekend, the Hacketts have your back. They’ll leave a box in front of the restaurant, and make pickups daily.

The Hackett girls already have donations! From left: Alex, Chloe, Daisy. (Photo/Julianne Mulvey)


Melissa & Doug — the international toy company, and the Westport couple named the Bernsteins behind it — keep a low profile.

The company (and the couple) do many good things, out of the limelight. Here’s one that deserves notice.

They’ve partnered with the Whole Foods, selling toys in stores and online. Between December 20-24, 1% of sales at Whole Foods will support Whole Kids Foundation’s child nutrition programs.

Stock up on good food and great toys. And help children eat well. Melissa & Doug — and kids you’ll never know — will thank you. (Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)


Westport abstract expressionist painter David Stephen Johnson made his European debut earlier this year.

To share in his good fortune — and do his part to help local first responders — from now through mid-January, he is donating all proceeds of his Works on Paper sales to Norwalk Hospital.

Click here for some of the Works on Paper that make original, thoughtful holiday gifts (and support the community).

More of Johnson’s pieces can be viewed at his Compo Beach studio, by (socially distanced) appointment. Email studio@davidstephenjohnson.com, or call 970- 376-5058.

To see other works, click here or follow hisInstagram page: @david.stephen.johnson.art.

David Stephen Johnson


And finally … on this date in 1865, Franz Schubert’s “Unfinished Symphony” premiered. The composer died nearly 40 years earlier, from either typhoid fever or syphilis. Just 31, he had composed more than 600 vocal works, 7 complete symphonies, sacred music and operas, along with piano and chamber music.

Snow Day!

Yeah, we know it’s gonna snow tonight.

Now we know that Superintendent of Schools Tom Scarice does not subscribe to the let’s-wait-and-see school of snow closing thought.

He’s a realist — and he too really likes snow days. He writes:

With the strong likelihood of a major winter storm tomorrow, I would like to inform the school community that the Westport Public Schools will be closed Thursday, December 17.

This will be a traditional snow day which will be made up at the end of the school year. The schools will reopen Friday as scheduled. If the clean up efforts require a second day, Friday will be a full remote learning day.

The anticipation and excitement of a snow day is something that every child should experience. Soak it up.

As a fellow parent I feel the fleeting nature of time with my own children. The challenge of this year warrants a respite. Let this be Thursday.

The forecast calls for about a foot of fluffy snow to end by mid-morning.  Bundle them up and let them all (elementary through high school) get out and enjoy one of the few days a year that we get for winter fun in southern New England.

Stay safe and warm.

Winslow Park snow day, March 4, 2019. (Photo/Molly Alger)

Unsung Heroes #170

Growing up in Westport, Jordan Schur spent plenty of time at the Westport Weston Family YMCA.

He still lives here. Now he’s a father. Jordan writes:

I want to express thanks and gratitude for the YMCA staff in the before/after- school childcare programs.

The pandemic has brought challenges to every family. For a 2-parent working household like ours, the Y has been a lifesaver. Let me highlight what an amazing resource they have been.

Westport’s elementary schools meet 2 hours and 45 minutes of in-school teaching each day, either morning or afternoon.

This leaves a lot of unaccounted-for hours, including kids’ “specials” (gym, art, music, Spanish) and homework.

This is just one area where the YMCA has been incredible. The staff helps kids log into their computers to do their specials, and provides them with materials and assistance.

The staff also helps kids with their homework in fun and creative ways, like turning sight words into artistic clouds that my wife and I would never have thought of even in normal times.

The Westport Y’s childcare program includes school help …

Then there are great extracurricular activities like swimming. The staff ensures they are there on time, as well as helping with lunches, the bus routine of getting to and from school, and countless other things they do every day that parents never hear about.

Heading into the school year, we had concerns about how our daughter would keep up with her work, and how she could participate in daily “specials” without a parent to help her.

The YMCA stepped up, figured it out, and has been beyond accommodating.  Their responsiveness to concerns is a model for any customer service business, and their attention to each child’s individual needs is refreshing.

With adjustments to the pool because of the latest COVID outbreak, the staff has taken special notice that there is less time for our daughter to get ready to swim. They ensure she is changed prior to her “special,” so she can get to her lesson on time.

Little things like that allow my wife and I to do our work, without having to sit distracted and concerned about how our daughter is managing.

And taking children for full Wednesdays when school is not in session, as well as school holidays, is a great solution to the constant juggling act of kid logistics.

… and fun, in the new gymnastics studio.

So thank you to the whole YMCA team. I would highlight individuals, but I know how big a team it is to make everything described above come true. I don’t want to leave anyone out.

We are grateful for the role you have filled in our community. With so much uncertainty about the future, having a daily rock like your team is beyond reassuring.

(Do you know an Unsung Hero? Email dwoog@optonline.net)

Pic Of The Day #1318

Kids having fun at Compo. It never gets old.

(Photos/J.C. Martin)

 

Roundup: Splatz, Immigration, Turkey Dogs, More …


Kids don’t have a lot to laugh about these days. And — let’s face it — Harvard and MIT scientists are not usual much for giggles.

But Westport mom Alli DiVincenzo — an accomplished entrepreneurial designer — has joined forced with those university researchers. They’ve created playful personal care products for kids, turning “ordinary tasks into extraordinary experiences.”

The first product from One Fun Company is a hand soap called Splatz. A gentle squeeze makes a “splat.” Each Splatz soap bubble “turns this essential, often tedious task into good clean fun,” Alli says.

She should know. Her son did not like washing his hands. But he enjoyed playing with slime, and anything else tactile.

She tracked down those scientists, and pitched them the idea for a popping hand soap. They loved it. For a couple of years they all tinkered in their kitchens.

When Alli dropped off 100 samples with friends, kids used up the entire test bottles in a day. She and the scientists knew they were on to something.

For the holidays, One Fun has teamed up with WestportMoms’ Local Love initiative, and Westport elementary schools’ Pay It Forward campaign. And in conjunction with the upcoming Small Business Saturday, One Fun offers 10% off Splatz all weekend long. Just click here, and use the code WOOG10.

PS: Keeping it local, Splatz’s packaging and distribution comes courtesy of Randy Herbertson’s The Visual Brand.


How’s this for a provocative title: The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

 That’s Daniel Okrent’s latest book. The insightful observer of American politics and history — and the first New York Times public editor — will be featured in a virtual talk December 2 (7 p.m.).

He’ll discuss his new work. It’s a chilling tale of how anti-immigration activists of the early 20th century — most of them well-born, many of them progressives –used the bogus science of eugenics to justify closing the immigration door in 1924.

Okrent’s appearance is sponsored by the Westport Library and Silvermine Arts Center. The center’s current exhibit, “The Golden Door” — an exploration of the complex histories and cultural identities that define and enrich contemporary America — runs through January 16.

Click here to register for Okrent’s free virtual talk.

Daniel Okrent

In other Library news:

The Westport Book Sale is temporarily suspending book donations effective today, until further notice. The decision is a result of rising COVID cases, and concern for volunteers who stand in the cold for hours accepting donations.

They invite everyone — in Westport and beyond — to shop the Online Holiday and Winter Book Sale.


I don’t know if Winslow Park Animal Hospital treats turkeys, as well as dogs.

But the Post Road East veterinary clinic always manages to mark holidays well.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)

And finally … on this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

 

Roundup: Open House, Fundraising, Food, More


There will be far fewer open houses this holiday season.

But MoCA Westport has plenty of space. They’re doing theirs early in December — nearly 3 weeks before Christmas. And they’re taking every COVID precaution they can.

MoCA’s Holiday Open House is set for Saturday, December 5 (12 to 5 p.m.). The event includes caroling by (small groups of) Staples Orphenians. They too will perform far less often than usual this year, so catch ’em while you can.

There’s free hot chocolate and doughnuts, plus food to purchase from the Melt Truck and Bubble & Brew.

Visitors can also enjoy the “World Peace” exhibit. Entry is timed, and limited to small groups.

The Westport School of Music — now housed on the 2nd floor will offer timed, small-group tours of its new space. Musicians will perform too, on the Steinway piano in the MoCA gallery.

The open house is run in conjunction with the Westport Police Department’s annual toy drive. Attendees can bring an unwrapped toy (or more) to add to the box.


The fate of the Staples High School wrestling team’s winter season is uncertain. But — COVID or no — the squad is fundraising for any eventuality, this year or next.

They’ve teamed up with BD Provisions in Fairfield’s Brick Walk, to sell bags of coffee. It’s roasted personally — and wonderfully — by owner (and Westporter) Tara DiPippa.

Coffees include Midnight Joe, Toasted Coconut, Organic Ethiopia and Colombian Decaf. For more information and to order, email FraasL@yahoo.com.

Tara DiPippa roasting BD Provisions coffee.


Neighborhood Studios — the fantastic after-school, weekend and summer music and arts programs serving 1,600 Bridgeport students a year — is raising much-needed funds with a virtual concert.

And plenty of Westporters are involved.

The event — “Great Songs for Hard Times” — kicks off this Friday (November 20, 8 p.m.). Performers include many familiar names: Rob Morton (aka Rob Schlossberg), Lorraine Watkins, Lynn Flaster, Lori Brasher, and Laurie and Jeffrey Gross.

Click here for tickets, or to make a donation.


Here’s a food drive. It’s for the Open Doors Foundation, a non-profit providing academic, athletic and enrichment programs for low-income students in Fairfield County and the Caribbean.

Non-perishable items can be dropped off at the Body Pulse Fitness Center (10 Bay Street, Westport). Monetary donations are great too; click here to help.

The Open Doors Foundation educates, enlightens and empowers.


And finally … one year ago today, the first known case of COVID-19 was traced to a 55-year-old man. He had visited a market in Wuhan, China.

Roundup: COVID Testing, VOTE!, Dentists, Kart Racing, More


As the number of COVID cases rises in Connecticut, so does testing demand.

This was the scene today before 7 a.m., at the St. Vincent’s Health Center site. The line of cars stretched far down Long Lots Road.

(Photo/Adam Stolpen)


Remember that “VOTE” sculpture that went up right before Election Day on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge?

It was created by Westporter Mark Yurkiw.

On Tuesday morning — as voters headed to the polls — this was all that remained:

Mark collected the pieces. He realized the damage did not come from the wind. If that was the culprit, they’d be scattered on the river. Instead, Mark says, all the letters were there on the ground.

He collected them, brought them home, and took this photo:

(Photos/Mark Yurkiw)

He calls this tryptic “Battered Not Broken.”


“Rock Paper Scissors” — the sculpture, not the game — was officially dedicated yesterday on Jesup Green. now that the official ribbon cutting has taken place.

Ann Sheffer — who with her husband Bill Scheffler dedicated the work — eloquently described how the influence of her Westport family encouraged her longtime support of the Westport Library, and how her desire to keep the arts thriving in Westport led to the establishment of the Arts Advisory Committee and the position of town curator (now filled by Kathie Motes Bennewitz.)

Dedicating “Rock Paper Scissors” yesterday (from left): Westport Library director Bill Harmer, town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, Westport Arts Advisory committee co-chair Nancy Diamond, donors Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. (Photo/Randa Trivisonno)

And one more election-related photo…

Anne Lowrie sent this along. The flag is in her back yard. It struck her as “appropriate for the current times: beat up but still flying.”

(Photo/Anne Lowrie)


The other day my dentist emailed me, requesting confirmation of an upcoming appointment. It prominently noted I’d be charged $50 if I canceled less than 24 hours in advance.

Then — less than 24 hours before my appointment — he emailed again. He had to cancel; his hygienist would not be in the next day.

I assume I’ll get $50 off my next visit. Right?


In early March, “06880” profiled Vivek Kanthan. The 10-year-old Westporter had just launched his (very successful) kart racing career.

A few days later, COVID-19 struck. Suddenly, his spring and summer plans were on hold.

When competition resumed, Vivek was ready. All told this year he competed in 16 races, and reached the podium 12 times.

Next year the young racer moves up a class, and faces even fiercer competition. it begins with 2 national events in Miami. Good luck, Vivek!

Vivek Kanthan, and his trophies.


Sharing a post-Halloween meal on Manitou Road:

(Photo/Francoise Jaffe)


And finally … speaking of dentists:

Anne Hathaway And “The Witches”: The Sequel

This morning, “06880” posted a heartfelt letter from one Westporter to another.

Rosie Jon — a mother of 3 and accomplished artist who was born without arms — asked Anne Hathaway to think about the message her character in the new movie “The Witches” conveys.

Rosie Jon (Photo courtesy of Mindy Briar for Westport Lifestyle Magazine)

The Grand High Witch’s deformed fingers and toes — and other physical differences — are portrayed as evil.

Speaking for the limb difference community, Rosie wrote:

We don’t blame you. We love you. And I feel strongly that this is an opportunity for you to use your platform to educate children and adults about how disability is not something “ugly” or “scary,” but something to embrace with love and acceptance.

Rosie urged Hathaway to reach out, and help heal the hurt she’d caused.

The actress already has.

Hathaway posted on Instagram:

I have recently learned that many people with limb differences, especially children, are in pain because of the portrayal of the Grand High Witch in The Witches.

Let me begin by saying I do my best to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of others not out of some scrambling PC fear, but because not hurting others seems like a basic level of decency we should all be striving for.

As someone who really believes in inclusivity and really, really detests cruelty, I owe you all an apology for the pain caused.

Anne Hathaway in “The Witches.”

I am sorry. I did not connect limb difference with the GHW when the look of the character was brought to me; if I had, I assure you this never would have happened.

I particularly want to say I’m sorry to kids with limb differences: now that I know better I promise I’ll do better.

And I owe a special apology to everyone who loves you as fiercely as I love my own kids: I’m sorry I let your family down.

She ended by mentioning the Lucky Fin Project, a non-profit that helps children with limb differences.

Rosie mentioned it too. Here’s hoping it benefits from the attention of these 2 great Westporters. (Hat tip: Trey Ellis)

Feliz Navidog!

Ari Halper is an advertising creative director.

very creative director. He developed the E*Trade Baby, made a short film with Ron Howard that shortlisted at the Oscars, and won an Emmy for his work on Canon. These days, the Westporter heads his own creative consultancy, Sauce.

Halper’s daughter Reya sure inherited his creative genes.

Last year at Christmas, the Saugatuck Elementary School student picked up their black goldendoodle’s paw. Reya began singing: “Feliz Navidog.”

Halper asked about her take on our Weston neighbor Jose Feliciano’s lovable holiday anthem. “That’s Santa’s dog,” Reya replied.

The creative director’s creative brain kicked in. Reya loves to read! What a great idea for a children’s book!

Ari and Reya Halper, and their goldendoodle.

Most people would leave it there. Halper — and his daughter — are not most people.

Over the next several weeks they wrote several drafts. It was fun. And, they realized, they had a salable product.

As they searched for a publisher — and Halper stresses this was a collaborative effort, with Reya providing plenty of input — they realized how big and unwieldy the children’s book world is.

They eventually discovered a children’s self-publishing group. The control and speed of that option appealed to them. Halper went to a writer’s workshop, educating himself on the ins and outs (aka the challenges and perils) of self-publishing.

There were many.

One was finding help. They found one through Reedsy, an online site matching authors with professionals.

“She was great,” Halper reports. “I wanted the book to be very Dr. Seuss-ish. Anapestic tetrameter is very regimented. She really held me to meter.”

The next task was finding an illustrator. Halper and Reyna settled on a woman who clearly understood the concept.

She lives in Mumbai. Fortunately, the internet shrinks the world. Unfortunately, the time difference made their collaboration less than instantaneous.

In July — just as the project neared its end — someone asked Halper if Rudolph was in the public domain. The world-famous reindeer was a central character in “Feliz Navidog.”

Turns out there are still 7 years left in Rudolph’s copyright. Turns out also though that Rudolph’s management is controlled by Character Arts. The company is based right next door in Wilton.

Aha! Halper thought. What an in!

He told them his tale. It was the middle of the pandemic; people were looking for a feel-good story. He added some personal details. How about licensing the rights to Rudolph?

Halper got “a categorial ‘no.'”

Christmas was coming (at least, in the book publishing world). What to do?

Fortunately, every other character in the book — Santa, Mrs. Claus, the 8 non-Rudolph reindeer — are all fair game.

Halper and Reya devised a new hook. They rewrote the book. The illustrator redid 10 of the book’s 40 pages. Just like Rudolph’s guided sleigh ride, everything worked out in the end.

Of course, it still was not easy. Normally a book like this would be printed overseas. But COVID complicated matters. Printing was done in the US — at a higher cost.

The hardcover version should be available any day. The paperback and e-book versions are live now, on Amazon.

Oh, yeah: The plot. It’s Christmas, and Pittsburgh is covered in a terrible fog. Even worse, the reindeer all get sick and can’t fly. When all hope seems lost, Feliz Navidog — Santa’s pet — raises his paw to help.

The book’s lesson is all about overcoming obstacles. The father-daughter author team sure did.

Here’s wishing them much success.

And, of course, Feliz Navidad.

(To order “Feliz Navidog: The Story of How Santa’s Pet Dog Saved Christmas — click here. To learn more, click here. Hat tip: Jerri Graham)

Roundup: Election Day, Fall Cleanup, First Graders, More


They’re running for the same Connecticut House of Representatives District 136 seat.

But incumbent Jonathan Steinberg and challenger Chip Stephens — both Staples High School graduates, a year apart (1974 and ’73, respectively) — gladly posed for a COVID-compliant fist bump this morning, at the Coleytown Elementary School polling place.

That’s the type of politics everyone can agree on!

Jonathan Steinberg (left) and Chip Stephens. (Photo/Jack Whittle)


Meanwhile, as the nation votes, 10 Westporters are spending their 2nd day in Pennsylvania.

Part of the Biden Voter Protection Team, they found an “energized” electorate yesterday. First-time voters were excited; others said they planned their whole day around voting today.

The group fanned out in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.

Bottom row (from left): Catherine Lewis, Zoe Tarrant, Nicole Gerber. Top: Lauren Cohen, Ana Johnson, Candace Banks, Kevin McLaughlin, Danielle Dobin, Jenny Perlman, Ariana Napier.


With fall yard cleanups at hand, Aspetuck Land Trust advises:

Tell your landscaping companies to make changes. You’re paying them; you don’t have to do 100% of what they recommend. Do what’s right for your yard and our environment.

For example:

Tuck in your beds. Rake leaves into your garden beds or under trees. Up to 3 inches of leaves can be stored here — and you’ll save on mulch in spring.

Mow, don’t blow. To promote biodiversity, don’t use leaf blowers. Mulched leaves are decomposed by earthworms and microorganisms,and turned into plant-usable organic matter. You can either remove the mower bag and simply go over a thin layer of leaves with your mower, or invest in a mulching lawn mower. Mulched leaves will put nutrients back into the soil.

Procrastinate: Sure, procrastinating gets a bad rap. But there are residents in your dead stalks. Little sweat bees survive the winter in hollow flower stalks, and birds shelter between dead branches. Put cutting off until the spring, to let them rest in peace.

For more information on fall clean up, click here for an article by Liz Craig from the Pollinator Pathway. And Healthy Yards of Westchester has great information about the many benefits of mulch.


Normally at this time of year, the Westport Library would be hosting 1st graders on tours, reading them stories, helping them select books and giving them their first library cards.

To cope with COVID, the Library created a “Virtual Field Trip.” First take a brief tour, see a Maker demonstration, and have a story read to them. The tour includes a link for parents to request a Westport Library card for their child.

This month, librarians will deliver the cards to each elementary school, plus a special gift: kids’ own copies of It’s Snowing by Gail Gibbons. The Library has asked administration to help them contact elementary school age virtual learners.

Questions? Email kids@westportlibrary.org.

The view from the Children’s Library. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)


And finally … with not much going on today, I just picked a totally random song, completely out of thin air. Go figure.