When kids were let out of school indefinitely, two East Hampton moms were wracking their brains on productive ways to keep their children occupied.
“There’s no place like home? That’s a lie. I believe I speak on behalf of the majority of parents in saying I have a newfound respect for teachers,” said Grace LaFemina. Her two daughters, June, 8, and Ann,6, have been adjusting as well. “The most important thing they have learned is how to make their own sandwich,” she said.
LaFemina met Brianna Stone 12 years ago, before either of them were parents. Together, they’ve started a new homeschool pastime — painting rocks. “It’s something to do where the supplies are easy enough to get, and with endless possibilities of what to put as a special message to brighten someone’s day,” Stone said. Stone’s two boys, Aiden, 9, and Colin, 5, attend the Springs School with LaFemina’s daughters.
With homeschooling two boys, it’s been equal parts bribery and reheating coffee, mixed in with a lot of Googling math on the couch.
“I toss sight words at my five-year old while he complains he is hungry for the 45th time before 9 AM. I have to say, all of these teachers are doing an incredible job working with our kids over a computer, giving them the right tools they need to make this transition the easiest it can be for them,” said Stone.
To give their kids a break from the computer screen, the families have been taking time creating inspirational and punny, pieces of art on rocks — “I lava you” and “Be the change.” The colorful stones even promote healthy eating with, “I carrot about you” or “Stay up beet.” Each individual art work spreads a message of positivity, kindness, and even that “sip happens.”
What began as just their kids painting rocks turned into a community of participation, and the parents have joined in too. Roughly 100 rocks are collected a week, totaling in about 400 rocks to date. Each painted with a base coat, message or image, and seal coat. From there, the rocks are placed around town, from Wainscott to Montauk.
“We are focusing on public areas with foot traffic to say thank you to first responders and local businesses right now. So many people are out walking during this time and we hope they can see a rock and smile. We are trying to teach our children to give back to the community and not expect anything in return,” LaFemina said. By tagging #EHRocks on social media, it’s almost a virtual scavenger hunt. Instagram shows the creations nestled by trees and by Napeague Harbor.
“The kids truly love walking around different neighborhoods and distributing them to other people rather than receiving any in return. It truly does make their day when they see people admiring their rock or seeing someone post one that they worked so hard on,” Stone said. “The way they think of special messages to encourage people and brighten their days, really does put a smile on my face. It makes you sit back and realize they are listening and learning these lessons about kindness we try instill in them every single day.”
As both women stock up on wine, a mom essential during the COVID-19 crisis, they can’t help but smile at their new day-to-day lives — from Stone’s sons wondering why she’s ‘dressed up’ in jeans to LaFemina’s daughters wondering why they have to put on clothes at all if they’re just staying in.
When you see a rock, be sure to tag #EHRocks and @EHRocks1, where their kids check in daily to see if anyone posted a rock of theirs. Once the pandemic is over, the ladies plan on creating a community kindness garden where the rocks can be shared, taken, or placed elsewhere.