"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

Day 17

The final day of March. Tomorrow begins a new month of Pandemic Quarantine. It'll be our first full month of isolation. The first of how many?

I have been on a roller coaster for the past two weeks. Quick to cry, swinging wildly from emotion to emotion, sitting heavily in each one until a new feeling struck. I'm no longer on the roller coaster....I'm...I think it's numb. I'm no longer sinking in strong feelings of sadness or worry or fear. I have moments of happiness and calm, moments of frustration, moments of loss....I'm not really sitting in any of them, though, and am left feeling....I do think it's numb. Is this acceptance? Resignation? Survival? I don't know if this is a positive development or a step backwards.

I don't need to know. I don't know how to do this because I've never done this before, so whatever I do and however I do it is okay. This has become my mantra.

The kids are fine. We're still not homeschooling so much as we are keeping occupied. We've been doing a few things regularly which are providing some sort of structure. We signed up for three free months of Rosetta Stone. Evan had been taking Spanish this year, so I figured this would be a good way for him to keep up with what he'd learned. Max and Molly are into it as much as he is, though, so it's become our pre-lunch activity.

My brother and his partner are huge Escape Room fans. They live in Richmond and their local Escape Room has put together a Quarantine Quest. They send you a puzzle a day to solve and, if you complete all 30, you are entered to win a gift certificate to be put towards a future Escape Room experience. So fun.

Other than that, it's still just a lot of walks, a lot of 4 Square, a lot of reading, and a fair amount of laziness. We're okay.


I read headlines and blurbs and get the important bits from Sam, but I am not watching the news. (A friend sent the link to John Krasinski's SGN. I may watch that.)

I *am* watching Tiger King, though. Can we talk about this?

Image via Netflix

I mean, we're all talking about it. It's just....unreal. But there's something specific I need to say about it.

I have a confession to make: When I was in college, I got mixed up with a bunch of overachieving do-gooders. They were part of a group and wanted me to join them because I, too, was an overachieving do-gooder. It was kind of like a fraternity, only less Greek and more secret. That's all I'm going to say about that.

As part of my initiation into the group (see: like a fraternity), I, along with the rest of my class of new initiates, was asked to participate in a service project (see: overachieving do-gooders). Guys. We were brought to a (probably illegal) big cat "rescue" facility and asked to build a cougar fence. Like...a safe and secure zoo-grade enclosure...for cougars. We were not qualified to build such a fence. And yet...

There were at least two tigers on the property, probably other big cats, too. Tiger cubs were rumored to be in the house, though we didn't see them or the people living in the house while we were there.

Guys. I think I was unwittingly caught up in BIG CAT CULTURE. This was central Virginia in the early '00s...what if those people knew Doc Antle?! What if the people we were volunteering for were buying and selling big cats with JOE EXOTIC himself?! What if I hadn't been so creeped out by everything we saw and did there that day that, instead of leaving as soon as possible and never speaking about that day or my involvement in illicit cougar-fence-building (until now), I went back, continuing to volunteer until I became central Virginia's Saff or Erik?! [shudder]

I sure hope that fence held. Or that it didn't? Perhaps the hope is that we, through our inexperience and ineptitude, accidentally aided and abetted in the escape of cougars into the forests of central Virginia? Yes. I'll go with that for the good of the cats....and likelihood: It was a pretty shitty fence.

Exhale. Conscience cleared. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Okay. On with the Day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Days 8-10

Art by Nella. Find it here.

Day 8

We took a long walk/bike ride today all the way to my parents' house on the other side of the neighborhood. We met them in their yard, maintaining a safe social distance from them. So weird. They were excited to show the kids a discovery they had made...a bunny burrow, just inside their fence! The top layer of grass and fur wasn't fully covering the nest, so we could see teeny little bunny ears wiggling around. Totally made our day.

Max and I took the even longer way home, along the winding trail that hugs the outside edges of the neighborhood. It was quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny. Just right. Just what we needed.

We got home and I was feeling really good. Better and more hopeful than I had been. We are going to be okay!

But I looked across the street and noticed a few neighbors congregating. Their kids forehead to forehead as they decorated the sidewalk with chalk. Sharing a basketball, shooting hoops. Standing shoulder to shoulder as they chatted. More neighbors walked down from the end of the street. I didn't speak up. I wanted to scream and yell and rage. I wanted to tell them that it's our neighbors and friends who are the nurses and doctors watching the storm approach and wondering how their hospitals will handle the enormous needs that our area is about to experience.

I wanted to scream that it's my kid who requires medicine for a chronic condition that makes him more susceptible to this virus.

I didn't say a word.

Day 9

Today was the day we found out schools will be closed for the remainder of the year. I'm not surprised, but it still feels like a blow. Maybe this will convince the neighbors to finally take this seriously?

Today was art day. We followed How To Draw tutorials on YouTube. We broke out the canvases and acrylics. We practiced hand embroidery. It was just what we needed.

I saw a tweet that read: "It's almost like Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we've done" This speaks to me. Karma, man. It's a bitch.

Day 10

Thank god for The Office. We're halfway through season three with Evan and watching it together at night is practically the only time we see him. He spends almost all day in his room...working on his assignments from his teachers and reading...when I go to check on him he says he's "fine" and answers questions in one-word responses. I'm worried about him. He's a bottler and a deep-feeler and prone to anxiety. We're trying to keep things light and positive, but it's scary to not know what's going on in his head. Sam reminds me that he's on the verge of 13. It's normal for teens to not want to hang around their parents all day. It's normal for teens to be moody and less-than-chatty and want to stay in their rooms even under the best of circumstances. He reminds me to follow Evan's lead here and just Be Here. It's hard. I'm trying.

Thank god for FaceTime. Both Max and Molly had FaceTime play dates with buddies from school today. They're still learning how to use it...right now it's mostly making faces at each other and giggling...which is fine...but I do hope they get comfortable enough with the technology to really stay connected with their friends.

Molly is loving the hand embroidery. I've been working on a few of my own and she asked me to make a template for her to sew a banner for her room. She's doing such a great job.

We found an interactive Carmen Sandiego show on Netflix. It's Carmen Sandiego meets Choose Your Own Adventure and it's great. You need to watch on a laptop or enabled SmartTV, but check it out.

Sam braved Costco today. He said it wasn't as bad as he thought it might be (few shoppers, plenty of stock), but it was definitely weird. There were lines on the floor to help shoppers maintain safe distances as they waited in the check out lines and the cashiers stood behind walls of plexiglass. I took this as a good sign that the store is taking necessary precautions to remain open and keep their employees safe.

When we moved into this house, we hung a Welcome sign on our porch. We immediately received a letter from our HOA instructing us to remove our "yard sign." I wrote back saying there must be some mistake...we don't have a "yard sign," only "porch art." We've been exchanging letters ever since. I'm not taking the sign down. It's unobtrusive and inclusive.

Today felt like a good day to add another work of art. It was made by Nella and posted for download by her mom Kelle.

I think we'll keep adding art. It feels like a good way to be subversive right now.

Guys. I can't keep up with your lesson plans. I know it's not my job to, but damn. I am hanging on by a thread over here. Keep posting your lessons and your ideas and your successes and your perfect homeschool routines because I'm sure they're inspiring someone but I need to keep scrolling past them. It's too much for me right now.

Evan's math teacher sent a super supportive email to her students and their parents this week. It acknowledged that the news of no more school for the year hits everyone differently and it hit her pretty hard. She linked to some activities for the kids to work on if they're bored and looking for something to do. Then she said, "Be strong and do what is asked of you at home. Some of you won't be able to do school work because you have to babysit and that is alright. Do what your family needs you to do - and do it happily!"

I am so freaking grateful for this message. First, it reassures students that there is so much more to life than 7th grade math right now. Also, it's a great perspective to share with *those* parents (you know the ones) who have probably been emailing her asking for more work so their kids don't fall behind. How nice for them that 7th grade math is the biggest of their concerns right now. How fucking nice.

Guys. The social/economic/academic divides that already exist in our community are going to be significantly and devastatingly widened by this pandemic. I am heartbroken and angry and I just really needed to hear those words from this fantastic teacher. Everyone needs to wake up to community priorities...not individual priorities, but WHAT IS BEST FOR THE COMMUNITY...each and every member of it.

Everything is hard and weird and stressful and unknown. We've never done this before so it's okay to not know what to do. If you consider each decision you make in terms of what's best for the most people, though, you'll probably do the right thing in the long run.

Everything is going to be okay.

Follow along on Instagram for more photos of our days: @skh.4102

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day 7

Day 7

I straightened my hair. And put on mascara. It had been awhile because...what's the point? As I walked into the kitchen, Max said, "Wow, Mom! Your makeup looks great today! The mascara, the hair...good job!"

It seems as though he's been secretly judging me.

I posted a picture on Instagram yesterday with a caption about the roller coaster of emotions we're on over here. We vacillate between calm and happy and ragey and crying pretty quickly. It's okay and it's understandable, it would just be nice if the five of us were all on the same ride.


The kids are still, for the most part, getting along well.

They're keeping themselves busy. They're plugged into screens a bit, but I've been pleasantly surprised by the time they choose to spend other ways...drawing, reading, playing in their basement fort. They're playing outside and spending time in the woods across from our house almost every day. Evan has even elected to ride his bike around the neighborhood, which isn't his typical go-to.

They've formed a band. The lyrics to all of their songs are potty humor and inappropriate language, but whatevs. Shared sibling history in the making...

Sam is checking All. Of. The. Things. off his list. He can't sit still like I can and I think he's kinda going crazy not going into the office or to the gym. He's channeling that energy into making planter boxes for our patio, detailing both of our cars, deep cleaning and repainting our garage apartment before our new tenant moves in, staining the front porch and stairs....it's going to be a productive spring.

You know how car rides are the best time for Big Talks with kids? So, too, apparently, is Quarantine. Evan and I had "the talk." Not the Sex Talk, that one's been ongoing and will likely continue for years....no, this one was the Magic Talk. We've been open for years about how Sam and I "help make holiday magic." He's hip to the tooth fairy truth and he's the one who moves the elf for Max and Molly....but we weren't sure if he knew the Big One: Does he still believe in Santa? Sam and I truly didn't know. As I was tucking him in the other night, he made a comment about how he was pretty sure it was me and Sam who gave them the treats from the Leprechaun on St. Patrick's Day. I confirmed this suspicion, then I asked, "So what else do you know? Or what else do you think you know?" He got really quiet and he whispered, "You and Daddy buy us the stuff at Christmas, too." I think he held his breath. I smiled and told him he was right. We talked again about how now he gets to help keep the magic for the younger kids and, someday, he'll get to make the magic for his own kids. "It's one of the very best parts about being a parent, buddy....getting to make all kinds of 'magic' for your kids." I had a feeling he might be afraid what this knowing would mean for future Christmases, so I reassured him: "And even though you know the truth now, you still get to experience the magic of Christmas morning...that's something Dad and I will keep doing until you're all grown up and making magic of your own. Nothing really changes now, bud." He was quiet for a minute, then said, "But...how? Like, where do you keep all the stuff? Do you....like....rent out a storage unit?" I assured him that we do not, but told him I'd never tell all of our secrets...."Don't go looking, either," I warned, "or there won't be the magic of Christmas surprises..."

Looks like I'm going to have to up my hiding game this year....

I'm currently baking a lemon cake and plan to make a "fake Thanksgiving" dinner tonight. Time is on my side.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day 5

Day 5

It's been a better day.

It's warm and sunny, I've stopped crying.

I'm no longer stuck in the existential crisis of whether or not there will even BE colleges for my kids to apply to when this whole thing is over....I'm able to sit, almost still, in this moment. The world isn't ending. Yet.

The kids are fine.

They're happy and (mostly) getting along with one another. They're reading voraciously...

...and exploring interests and curiosities. Max and Molly watched a few BrainPop videos while Evan watched a documentary on the rise of the Ottoman Empire (yawn). That's all the "school" we did for the day, for anyone keeping track. We're figuring it out as we go over here....managing expectations and trying to mitigate stress.

We're playing board games...

...and playing outside....

They're video-chatting with friends and family, including learning how to Zoom and installing Marco Polo so we can send video messages to our 20-member family chat room.

They're going to be alright.

I'm trying to be patient with myself and others. I'm a work in progress.

I've stopped reading almost all news, relying on Sam to bullet-point it for me.

I've become emotionally attached to the couples on Love is Blind. (Except Jessica. She's the worst. And Damian. He's manipulative.)

I woke up this morning with an image in my head: An anthropomorphized Earth is suffering from a persistent case of People. She's been dealing with this ailment for a couple hundred thousand years. It's not terrible all the time, but every once in a while, it flares up and becomes unbearable. She's tried different treatments in the past in an attempt to get rid of them...famine, drought, disease...one doc even recommended flooding them out. Each attempt was effective to a certain extent and brought temporary relief, but nothing cured Earth entirely of her People. She decided she'd have to just learn to live with People....despite the wars they wage on themselves and the havoc they wreak on her. Lately, though, her case of People has flared up in a bad way. So bad that it's literally killing her. So what choice does she have but to resort to extreme measures? Experimental drugs and untested therapies. She'll do anything to get rid of the affliction that is destroying her....we ARE her plague.


But, to be honest, I'm rooting for Her....and us, of course...but also Her. Maybe we'll all have learned some pretty valuable lessons at the end of this? Lessons that will lessen Her burden? Lessons about community and selflessness and rising to occasions and needs vs. wants and sacrifice and the greater good....Maybe...

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day 4

Today was the first time I cried.

That's not entirely true. I cried on Monday when the GI nurse called to say that Evan's labs indicated the need for a liver biopsy. He's in drug-induced hepatitis, apparently. I cried because she seemed too cavalier as she said it. But that's my baby's liver she's talking about and I'll be damned if she's going to treat it as some sort of mere problem to be solved.

Today was the first time I cried because of the pandemic, though.

I'm not sure what caused it. The weeks-long build-up of anxiety and the fear of the unknown, to be sure....but I think in the immediate, it was because I had just come downstairs from checking in on Evan's homeschool progress.

I've always said, to him and to others and even probably in this space, that Evan is not a candidate for homeschool. He doesn't like being told what to do...especially by me. This mandatory month-long homeschool experiment is going to test us. Luckily, it's his teachers telling him what to do, for the most part, and I'm just here to oversee his progress.

I had asked him about his math work and found myself spiraling into a lecture about effort and self-directed learning and working hard so he can be on the "right" math track that will allow him to apply to the colleges of his choice so he can have the career he wants and the life he deserves and....well, maybe you know how it goes....

It occurred to me mid-lecture that we can't predict what'll happen weeks or months from now, much less the years from now when he'll start thinking about college....

I came downstairs, sat at the kitchen counter, which was littered with the at-home learning Max and Molly had been working on...fraction quilts and comic strips and word study journals...and just...started to cry.

Day 4, 9:30 am.

We received word yesterday that our kids' schools will be closed until at least April 12, 2020.

Regular checks of Facebook reveal that our local grocery stores are not fully stocked, though the ones in town are reported to be. This is fueling anxiety. We are prepared to stay home for a few weeks, with maybe one or two trips to replenish fresh produce, but will the stores have what we need when we need it? This is also reframing our thinking...what do we actually need?

We're thankful for the grocery store employees who are working around the clock to meet the needs of their communities.

The kids miss their friends.

I would be fine to stay in quarantine forever (introvert, through and through) if not for the unknown outside my walls. How long is this going to last? How many people are going to die? How many families is this going to financially ruin?

Several of my siblings are going to have their jobs and businesses forever changed by this pandemic. I'm sick with worry for them...for the stress they are having to endure, but not for whether or not they'll be okay. I know they will be with their strength and their smarts and their family support that won't let them face this on their own...but what will their lives and careers look like on the other side of this?

Why is our president so cruelly and completely inept?

The world seems eerie. We pass neighbors on our daily walks, exchanging looks that say "What the fuck?" as our smiles reassure, "Hang in there." We're outside, but not together....everyone looks tired.

The world seems kinder. We paused to chat with some elderly neighbors we hadn't before met while on the trail behind our house the other day. Standing at a "safe social distance," I asked if they needed anything and if we could spare them a trip to the store. They didn't, but appreciated the offer. As we walked away, Max said, "This virus is bringing people together. We wouldn't have stopped to talk to those ladies otherwise." We talked about how something that affects literally everyone gives us all something in common...something we can all talk about. And it's not just neighbors...doctors and scientists are collaborating and sharing their knowledge in unprecedented ways...there's no ego when everything is at stake.

Thank god for the doctors and the scientists.

Max is worried that he isn't "doing enough school."

Molly has finally agreed to read a non-graphic novel. She chose Harry Potter.

I need to have compassion for the stress Evan is feeling, which he'll never admit to out loud. Lay off the math, Mom. He has enough fear and worry and concern swirling through his undeveloped, 12-year old brain.

I think, ultimately, that's what's making me cry.

Lesson Learned:

Deep breaths. Long walks. Patience and self-forgiveness. Cry showers.