Huzzah! The New York Renaissance Faire!

flower girl

I had never been to a Renaissance Faire until I met my husband, Hal. I thought they were silly and a world I didn’t belong in. I was more interested in museums and independent movies and reading and introspective walks. I sound totally snotty, right? I thought the costumes were silly and embarrassing, and the silly accents…c’mon.

Then we went to the New York Renaissance Faire for the first time about eight years ago. And it’s a good thing I can admit when I’m wrong. I found myself being fitted with a bodice and flower wreath. Hal suddenly was outfitted in a leather vest, puffy shirt, and scabbard. And the pickles on a stick?! Is there a more perfect food? I think not.

We went back for opening weekend this year with four year old Miriam in tow. The imagination is kicked into high gear immediately. It even started in the parking lot with meeting costumed cast members. Miriam was so excited to see a princess! Every lady wearing a fancy dress was a princess to her. And if nothing else happened that day, the excitement on Miriam’s face was worth it all.

But what struck me the most this visit was how kind the Faire actors and actresses were to this VERY enthusiastic little girl. And their quick witted comebacks to questions Miriam asked were happily answered. She left every interaction with a knight, princess, peasant, wench, or pirate feeling so excited.  As any parent of a super talkative kid knows, it’s such a relief when someone just “gets them”. Miriam just wants to be seen and heard and part of it all. And this is wonderful place for that. It felt safe.

And what also struck me this visit was how friendly all the fellow faire visitors were. Miriam is a hugger. And she doles out compliments like a used car salesman, except she is 150% sincere. Just a sampling of her kind words of the day:

  • I love your purple lipstick!
  • I love your pink hair!
  • I love your wolf ears!
  • I love your scary knight clothes!
  • I love your blue dragon! Can I pet it? (And everyone did let her pet their handmade dragon puppets sitting on many shoulders all around the fairgrounds)

Now in full disclosure, Miriam was not wearing her “listening ears” that day. And we had some challenging  moments. But if you’re going to have a challenging day with your four year old, I highly recommend doing it at the New York Ren Fair. There’s so much to diffuse and distract. And while I didn’t get to indulge this year, there’s also mead and beer to lubricate ‘Ye Olde Patience.

Wilfredo running the dragon swing ride with brute strength was the friendliest pirate. Miriam is fearless but when one of the other children started crying during the ride, he was everything you wanted in a pirate. He slowed the dragon down and all the kids became supportive of the little girl until there were giggles all around.

dragon joydragon ride  Taylor at Rosie’s Posies was the loveliest wench ever. While only Miriam walked away with a garland of flowers, Taylor and I chatted about how fabulous the feather wreaths were. A little out of our budget this visit, hopefully next year or later this faire season (it runs into October) I’ll be sporting a headful of feathers.

rosie posie

Miriam was excited to meet a part wolf/part pretty lady whose ears actually moved!

fair goer wolf

We really enjoyed the Music of Duende! Amanda Kitchens happily took a picture with her newest fan after the show. What a treat it is to hear live music up close and you will hear plenty at the faire.


And while we didn’t buy any fairy wings this time, the fairy shopkeeper was gracious and huggable.

fairy wing fairy

fairy in the mirror

When Miriam saw Kathleen Finnegan playing her celtic harp, her eyes were wide with amazement. She knew it was a harp (not sure how!) and was mesmerized. Kathleen was practically angelic and invited Miriam up to play! harp lesson

harp pose



A few hours at the New York Renaissance Faire gave us some unforgettable memories. We suspended the real world for a while as we entered #wherefantasyrules…a very appropriate hash tag. Check out the New York Renaissance Fair website and facebook page for theme weekends and special offers for ticket discounts and contests!flower girl



Peter Pan…


“Mommy, why does Anna grow up?”
My four-year-old daughter, Miriam, is thinking hard about Disney’s Frozen. She wants to know why Anna has to grow up in the movie. Why can’t Anna just stay a little girl? And then, gesturing to her own body like a game show hostess, she tells me she wants to stay this size forever.
My thoughts instantly go to my son. He died seven years ago in a swimming pool accident. He will forever be a few weeks shy of two years old. I’ll never know if he’ll be tall like my husband or stocky like me. I’ll never know if he’ll be the teacher’s favorite or a boy scout. I’ll never know if he’ll need glasses or braces or even a math tutor.
So, when I face the wistful thoughts of many parents- the wish that they could stay little forever-it fills me with terror. The terror of losing another child. The terror of not seeing my child grow up. Of a life cut short.
I wonder why Miriam wants to stay little forever? Where did she get this idea of growing up as optional? I start to explain why growing up is exciting and natural.
“Everybody grows up! It’s just what our bodies do!” I tell her.
I don’t get too detailed with how she’ll drive a car and go to work and have her own house to live and her own kids who call her mommy. I don’t want her to think past her Play-Doh Crazy Cuts Hair Salon right now. Let her watch the clay push its way through the holes in the silly character’s head as she turns the crank. The best I can hope for her is that she will always giggle with excitement as the “hair grows.” Through every stage of her life, she WILL grow in so many ways.

And so will I. And it will be my pleasure.

Can Ya’ Hear Me Now?

Reposting this story from this day last year. Because I’m cranky, I’m have cramps, and this made me smile. Enjoy!


20160717_142044As I signed Miriam out of school the other day, she made sure to say goodbye to the director, Miss Cindy sitting nearby. Suddenly, with great urgency, this 3 and 1/2 year old powerhouse also recounted her weekend adventure to her.

“Bye Miss Cindy! I rode on an elephant and a train and a merry-go-round and I put my feet in the sand and I went on the potty but it was too loud and I cried!”

When Miss Cindy’s head stopped spinning with all this information that was just adorably spewed upon her, she simply replied with a smile and a “Wow!”

That’s all Miriam wanted to hear. Just to be acknowledged. Just to share her thoughts and excitement. The accomplishment of overcoming the fear of the loudly echoing auto-flushing toilet. Well, she didn’t really overcome it. I had to hold her above the toilet as she screamed her head off amidst bikini clad…

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Word To Your Mother…


My four-year-old daughter has started blurting out nonsensical words. Simple, actual, everyday words turn into gigglefests. Here’s how it must look in her head:


It starts with a little giggle, turns into belly guffaws, and then she’s actually crying with laughter. I can’t help but join in the happy tears. It’s just so silly. Words like boobies, potty, and farty are popular in her repertoire. The thrill is in the verboten. In her four year old world, this is outrageous! Rebellious! Courageous! Contagious!

When I was in third grade, Mrs Somkopoulous gave us a spelling test. She slowly said the vocabulary words as the class wrote them down silently at our desks. When the test was over, Mrs. Somkopoulous wrote the words on the blackboard as we checked our own work. I wish I remembered what the word was, but what I do remember is getting that one word wrong. I had struggled over that word. Erasing it, rewriting it, erasing it again. And the spelling I settled on was wrong. As she wrote that one word, I hung on every letter. And when I realized I had chosen the wrong spelling, I lost control. I jumped up from my desk and yelled,

“SHIT!! I had it right the first time!”

It was as if the rest of the class had disappeared and I was standing there in my own space and time. I had never done anything like that before. It’s like I was possessed by the demons of spelling and disappointment. Mrs. Somkopoulous was horrified at my profanity and sent me straight to the corner. And the only thing greater than the shame I felt of being sent to the corner was the anger I felt at myself for spelling that word wrong.

When I moved into my first solo apartment, my mother asked me what have I always wanted that she could buy me as a gift. I said a giant dictionary. The biggest she could find. And I would display it on a music stand. She got me that dictionary. She said I was on my own to hunt for a music stand that could hold the weight of that gigantic beautiful book.

Discussing keeping kosher over dinner at a non-kosher restaurant, I was once told by our temple’s Cantor an unforgettable sentence. She said, “It’s more important what comes out of your mouth than what goes into it.” And with that dispensation, I ordered something covered in bacon and cheese.

I thought about that sentence while Miriam was randomly blurting out silly “dirty in a pre-k world” words. All I could see as I watched her giggles turn into tears of laughter was she now knew the power of words. The joy of words. I saw a little me studying the dictionary. Learning synonyms and homonyms and loving every minute of it. Being the only kid in elementary school that didn’t groan when the teacher said, “Take out your English textbooks now class.”

Words. I can’t get enough. I just learned a new phrase the other day. “Hoisted by my own petard” is my new obsession. Shakespearian in origin, I can’t stop saying it in my mind. I will giggle at its melody while Miriam recites “poopypantsladyfart” over and over again by my side.

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Stage Door…


This was one of my most treasured photos for a long time. I’d say it’s about 1999 and that’s me and Toni Collette. My mother and I had just seen Wild Party on Broadway. For the second time. Because the first time, her crush, Mandy Patinkin, had an understudy. The show was one of my favorites. Toni Collette was a crush for me since I saw Muriel’s Wedding in a Chevy Chase, Maryland movie theatre a decade earlier with my friend Alison. We loved it so much and laughed so hard, we went back again the very next night instead of seeing The Madness of King George like we’d planned.

Her character, Muriel, made me laugh and cry and feel every feeling like nothing I’d ever seen before. A silly movie for many. But for many reasons, Muriel reached deep inside my chubby, lonely, quirky soul and made me happy. Because Muriel was like me. And if her character existed, that meant someone wrote it because they were also like Muriel. Or knew someone who was. Toni Collette played her so perfectly that I knew she must relate somehow too. That’s what actors do, right? Relate. Interpret. Become.

So I crushed on her and wanted to see what she would do next. There were more movies that I enjoyed. But nothing like the experience of Muriel’s Wedding. Now she was on Broadway. Co-starring with one of my mother’s favorites, Mandy Patinkin. It was a bonding moment for us. Two celeb crushes highlighting a rare mother/daughter night out. She loved Mandy Patinkin for three reasons.

  1. He was good looking
  2. He had a beautiful singing voice
  3. He’s Jewish

The second time we saw the show, Mandy was there. And so was Toni. The show had gotten even better in the few months since we’d seen it. We were having so much fun. I cried when Toni Collette came on stage. I always do that. I love a good show. If I had to guess, my mother teared up a little from excitement when Mandy first appeared on stage, too.

Afterwards, we waited at the stage door. I knew it was hard for my mother to stand for that long. But she did. Because if there was one thing we had in common, it was celebrity gawking. It was just me and her. My father wasn’t there to make her feel like she needed to leave right away. My brother didn’t need her to bring food to him at home. There was no rush. So we waited.

Eartha Kitt came out first. She was awesome and gracious. She signed autographs and meowed like a cat. Next, other actors whose names I didn’t know but I told them how great they were in the show. Then a whirlwind worthy of the Beatles, Mandy Patinkin was rushed out the door. No eye contact. No smiles. No waves. Just right into his waiting car. The crowd screaming his name. And then he was gone. And the wave of disappointment washed over. I felt so bad for my mother. I really wanted her to have that moment with Mandy. I’m sure she wanted to tell him that his step-brother, Robert, was our rabbi. And that she remembers sending an invitation to Mandy Patinkin and Family at an Upper West Side address to come to a special service to welcome Rabbi Ruben. Because she was the Sisterhood president at that time and getting a new rabbi was exciting enough but he was related to Mandy Patinkin! But she didn’t get the chance.

“I’m sure he’s tired after a show like that. I’m sure he just wants to go home. It’s ok. It was still fun!” said my ever gracious mother. And she was right about it all.

So now we waited for Toni Collette. The stage door guys said she was definitely still in the theatre. And we waited. And waited. I know my mother was tired but she wanted to wait. She found a little wall to sit on. She was having fun talking with the few others waiting. This was a side of her I didn’t get to see much. It was her.

And then she came out. Scrubbed clean without the platinum blonde wig she wore in the show or the makeup or confident stage walk. She just came out, carrying her bicycle on her shoulder in a rainbow windbreaker and backpack. “Hello everyone!” she said sincerely with her big toothy smile like mine. It was before camera phones and we didn’t have a camera but this one older man my mother had been talking to did.

“Go ahead. Ask her for a picture before she gets on her bike!” he said. “I’ll take it and mail it to you.”

So I did. All goofy 32 years old me, crushing on this actress. She was lovely. As we took this picture, I had just said to her, “I just love you. I love you so much I named my cat Muriel after you.”

Flashbulb flashed. A hug and tears of happiness all around. For my mother, for me, and hopefully for Toni Collette.

Mandy Patinkin, you missed it. But we still love you anyway.






Broken Crayons Color Too…(And a Contest to Enter!!) Part II



She can’t stop talking about it. For the week leading up to our visit to “the crayon factory”   she had a lot of things to say.

“What are we doing on Sunday?!”

“Are we going in the white car with Mommy AND Daddy??!!”

“I think the crayon factory is a great idea!”

I showed Miriam the videos on the Crayola web page and her smile was instantaneous. What kid doesn’t love these bright, primary colors and happy families and cool arts and crafts? And then she saw it. The real live giant crayon she can hug. Miriam is a hugger. She will hug someone she’s just met if she likes their vibe. She must’ve said “I want to hug that blue crayon!” thirty-five times between Wednesday and Sunday morning. And all my husband I could think was “Oh, God, I really hope there’s a blue crayon for her to hug.”

And Crayola did not disappoint. In any department. For the adults, it was stress free driving with clearly marked signs for parking and how to get in. I’ll admit that sometimes we just can’t figure out how to get in someplace!! It was a straight shoot down the highway for us until we saw the pretty very Pennsylvania-looking steel bridge. The cute town of Easton made me say “Oh, I want to live here!” It reminded me of my five years I spent in Lambertville, PA. My ‘living in a postcard days’ as I like to call them.

There were lockers and bathrooms and a well organized, fast moving line. And when the line got a little backed up with questions, I was happy to see more employees appear quickly to keep it moving.

Miriam is four and a half. We are very realistic with knowing we may not always see as much as we want to when we go somewhere. Because, hey, guess what? Kids are unpredictable. Yeah, earth shattering news, I know. So we started slowly and did a little divide and conquer. My husband went to survey the ‘lay of the land’ and I brought Miriam immediately to the small play area she spotted.


We got some of that “OMG I’ve been in the car for a whole hour” energy out and we then we moved on to the ‘make and name your own crayon’ stations. The writer in me wanted to make them more complicated than they were, of course. But we made great souvenirs with names like “Mommy’s Very Cool Brick Red” “Daddy’s Awesome Royal Purple” “Miriam’s Cutie Patootie Shocking Pink” and without hesitation, we made one for Noah…”Angel Brother Noah Sky Blue.”



My favorite activity was ‘Art Alive’ where you sit at a touch screen and color either a coloring page with virtual crayons or draw freehand. When you’re done, you simply ‘send’ your artwork to the giant wall! Once she got the hang of it, it was hard to drag her away.

Miriam danced with virtual crayons that mimicked her every move.


The modeling clay area was fantastic. There were plenty of places to sit even on a Sunday afternoon. Daddy got us packets of colors from the vending machine as we made friends with another family and shared the cutting tools, molds, and rollers. Of course we created our family in clay.

My husband went off to explore the other floors while Miriam and I kept playing at our clay station. When suddenly…THE HUGGABLE BLUE CRAYON APPEARED!!! Relief was my first emotion. No one wants their kids to be disappointed.



I was impressed by the “happy factor”. Parents loving it as much as kids and strangers communicating through arts and crafts. Crayola crayon memories are strong ones, as evidenced by ooh’ing and ahh’ing parents and grandparents in the gift shop. The sight of a vintage style tin or anything with a ‘built in sharpener!’ brought us all back instantly.

Oh and speaking of the gift shop…the prices were not bad at all. Whether we’re just used to NYC pricing or not, we were relieved to see that getting Miriam her purple crayon plush toy was not in place of a week’s supply of chicken nuggets and a new pair of shoes. There was even room in the budget for a new mug for Hal, and this fancy lollipop.

We didn’t even come close to seeing everything The Crayola Experience had to do. Miriam was a little under the weather and we decided to head off any meltdown (wax pun intended) by leaving while we were all still happy.

*The annual pass is totally the way to go if you are anywhere within 2 hours of Easton. It will pay for itself with just a few visits and the pressure of doing it all in one visit is eased.

Crayola is doing their First Ever Crayola Summer Camp this year! Oh, how I wish I could do this instead of my retail job! It sounds great!

We will be back soon to see more of what we missed on the first visit and explore Easton a little too! And if you’d like to see what all the hubbub is about and hug a crayon and get your own plush toy and even this super cool lollipop she told me not to eat (but I did anyway after she fell asleep)… KEEP READING BELOW!!!!



AND NOW THE CONTEST!!! I’m giving away a free pair of tickets (a $40 value) to TWO lucky readers!

  1. Share this post on Facebook
  2. Like my page Erica Landis- I’m A Writer
  3. And answer this question: If you were a Crayola crayon, what color would you be and why?

Winners will be chosen sometime on July 5th. Now get sharing, liking and coloring!!!





The Broken Crayons Still Color…


This is our family crest. Mommy, Daddy, Miriam, and Angel Noah. I drew this by accident one day. Just a bunch of hearts on a piece of paper were personified into our little family through mindless, meditative coloring.

I use a different color to fill in the black outlines every time I draw this. Sometimes I’m pink. Sometimes Hal is yellow. Sometimes Miriam is blue. And sometimes Noah is red. No rhyme or reason…just whatever crayon I pick up first. Broken or pristine. They are all rich in pigment and emotion. Imperfect lines that scream quietly, “IT’S US!!!!!!!!!!”

I’m so excited to announce that I’m teaming up with The Crayola Experience in Easton Pennsylvania for some stories with special offers for my readers. We’ll be visiting this weekend for the very first time and I’m not afraid to embarrass myself. In fact, you can count on it.

If you want to join us there and see me embarrass myself first hand, here’s a link to discounted tickets! Laughing at me is no extra charge!

Click here for Crayola Experience Discount Tickets!




Son Shine/Daughter Shine


When Noah was born fresh out of my belly, all pink and wonderful with a headful of dark hair, Hal exclaimed through smiling tears, “And I thought I’d only ever be calling Lazar my son!”

Lazar was Hal’s cat when we first started dating. He was a beautiful, affectionate, drooling, ball of black fur. Everything you could want in a cat. Lazar died of old age the day we brought Miriam home from the hospital. Literally, within hours of bringing our daughter home into our apartment, he simply fell on the floor and died. It was poetic, to say the least.

The days and nights are not easy for you, dear husband. Dear father of our children. I wish I could do magic. I wish I could bring back the dream. I know you try your very best. To process the sad and the happy. And everything in between. I know it doesn’t always come out right.

But here we are. Ten years married. Twelve years together.

Stronger and weaker than ever.

Happier and sadder than ever.

It’s a life of opposites for us.

It’s confusing and exhausting.

Noah and Miriam made you a father.

Father’s Day is everyday. In its overwhelming pain and dizzying joy.







The Mystery of a Day

How will a day end? It’s impossible to know.

We start our mornings with coffee and showers. We scroll the news and Facebook on our phones while we stand at the mirror. Makeup applied, shaving, brushing, preening, pruning.

We know what is planned for the day. But we don’t know what is not. And sometimes that fact, if I think too hard about it, can be crippling.

We put on our game faces and gather up our game plans.

“Time to start our day!” I say to Miriam when I wake her.

“What day is today?” she always asks.

We know how the day starts. But how will today end? Better or worse than the day before? Happily uneventful? Some good news? Some great news? Some sad news?

This is how my day started today. Sunlight streaming into our kitchen. All smiles. Enough to carry me through, however it may end.