Sunday, May 31, 2020

Is it weird that I miss the stricter restrictions?

One of Syd's BFFs had a "drive-by" birthday last week. They don't see each other often, but the girls have celebrated their birthdays together every year since they were three, and Syd has been anxiously looking forward to the day for weeks. She handmade a gift and then included several other treasures she's collected. They've been talking about it incessantly. Suffice to say, it was going to be a BIG DEAL. Plus it was going to be our first one, so that felt like a component of this pandemic that we wanted to remember.

I got a little nervous when I got the official invite for the drive-by, as it said "Drive/Stop by." I know that these friends live in a very social neighborhood and that houses and yards tend to blur together in that suburban utopia people aspire to. Wonderful, in general. Less so currently.

I prepped the girls ahead of time that even if there were other kids hanging out, that we couldn't. That didn't make it any easier though when we pulled up and a crew of kids in swimsuits swarmed the car. The girls miss each other. They wanted to hug and be together. Syd wanted to not be the odd-kid-out and it was so obvious. And I wanted to hang out too! Seeing the adults standing together, cool drinks in hand, I missed the awkwardness of small talk and the ease of standing in a group together in someone's driveway without being hyper-aware of everyone's respiratory droplets. I tried to catch up with my friend, real quick from my drivers' window, as cars piled up behind me. I let Syd jump out to put her gift on the gift table, but then had to call her back when the kids started to move further towards the house.

 All in all, it wasn't nearly as fun as we'd hoped. As we drove away Syd was obviously disappointed and at one point we agreed that maybe it would've been easier if we hadn't gone. I tried to point out the other families that just drove by, and reminded her that she's been able to play with a neighborhood friend while her siblings haven't (because the "you should be grateful" tactic always works so well). I think sometimes the kids feel pretty powerless, so I shared my frustration that I wasn't able to hug my friend or stay to chat either. Finally I took everyone through the McD's drive-thru and got ice cream. Because the fact was, even though we love our friends, that it did kind of suck and we all needed a frozen Fanta.

I'm really starting to struggle with the question of whether I'm being arbitrarily cautious and a fun-killer, or if I'm being responsible and thoughtful. Eli is getting invited to parties again. Syd's friends are having sleepovers and playdates. Avery's collecting animals from our front yard and putting them near her bed "so I can have someone to talk to." None of this feels sustainable, but at the same time I'm not quite ready to go back to normal again because the world still feels scary. At the same time, I know I'm also struggling with how to make this all feel less oppressive to my kids, often vacillating between validating the suckiness of it and being overly indulgent in the areas that we can splurge (Let's rent a movie! Who wants to make cookies? New Legos for all!) Am I setting up my kids to be cognizant of the sacrifices we make for the greater good or am I setting them up to be the weird kids who's parents have never let them (fill in the blank here)?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Quarantine Birthday Club

Syd turned TEN! Like two weeks ago! I haven't been spending as much time on my laptop and quite honestly blogging from your phone is a real PITA.

Syd was supposed to have a big birthday party this year and has been planning her llama-themed slumber party (complete with matching jammies) since January. I was really worried that her quarantine birthday was going to fall woefully short. At the end of the day though she declared that it was one of her best birthdays yet. It seems perhaps that when you're an anxious, introverted, newly minted ten-year-old, a day of indulgence and intermittent social interaction is exactly what you want, even if you didn't know it.
Traditional birthday donuts! We tried to go to our favorite local place, but when Syd and I walked in no one was wearing a mask so we decided to break tradition and go to Dunkin instead. 


A gallon of glue, merch from her favorite youtuber, and a hydroflask. Basically the VSCO girl starter kit.  

Friends dropped off birthday gifts and sang to her from the street. Included is a lapdesk that her friend's little sister made her, so she can do Zooms from the couch. :) 


 Syd asked if she could make her own cake this year. Strawberry with funfetti frosting and llama sprinkles. She did the whole thing herself with no help from us. Between that and the Chipotle takeout she asked for for dinner, it really was the most hands off birthday any of my kids have ever had. She and a couple of neighborhood girls made socially-distant slime in our driveway (I put together the kits and the girls sat 10 feet apart), she made friendship bracelets, and spent the rest of the day with unlimited screen time and candy. 
She also asked for a pair of traditional pajamas (which are surprisingly hard to find) and I am here for it. 
I had a lot of anxiety about her birthday and was sure that, between being the middle child, being fundamentally somewhat angsty, AND missing the party she's been planning forEVER, that this was going to be a rough day. In retrospect though, I think it was pretty perfectly Syd.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Weird Flex

For the past week I’ve been spotting a woman walking through my neighborhood, speed walker style. She’s stereotypically suburban looking, with highlighted blond hair, age incongruently perky breasts, and tan, toned legs. That’s not all that unusual. What makes it weird is that she’s always wearing the exact same outfit. A red MAGA hat, a glaring white “Trump 2020” tank top, and red camp shorts. The only explanation I can come up with is that it’s some kind of protest?  She smiles and waves as she passes, despite what has to be my “WTF?!” face. I really need to know what her deal is. I have to believe that if it’s a protest, it’s not a super effective one, but also I want to paint my house with a giant rainbow/Mexican flag and drape a thousand masks from my trees

Monday, May 11, 2020

Mothers Day: Quarantine Edition

There are parts of the Shelter in Place that I really, really like. Like celebrating holidays in my own cozy bubble with no pressure to make big plans or go to crowded restaurants. My Mother's Day was absolutely delightful, and it included the kids watching far too much tv alone and C taking a nap.







Eli made me a photo booth, and apparently those were the only pictures I took all day. Not pictured are the several hours I spent sitting outside listening to an audio book and working on my embroidery or the raucous game of pool volleyball that happened when I actually got in the pool, much to my kids' dismay and delight. I haven't spent a Mother's Day with my mom in years, so I was grateful that she was here this year. She has the same low-key approach as I do, so we sat together and embroidered our inappropriate samplers and it was basically the best. 

Dinner was homemade burgers and we rounded out the night with root beer floats and a new binge show with the girls (though ill-advised for the 7 year old as it turns out Buffy is a bit darker than I remembered it to be.) Averson lost her last shark-tooth (thank GOD, that was getting creepy) in the pool, so the night ended with the tooth fairy putting wet money under her pillow (since she had to go dive for the lost tooth). This morning she was very confused about how the bottom of her pillow got wet and the top didn't. Maybe the Tooth Fairy should have left a note...


Monday, May 4, 2020

Distance Learning update

You guys? I think we've got this shit figured out. It's a huge team effort, but we finished out last week missing one half of one Khan Academy assignment and short a few minutes in a math facts app. That's a HUGE improvement from where we were. And it also is making me appreciate both the teachers and just how much work this is for the kids. Especially Averson. I'm not here, but when I'm putting her schedule together it conceivably amounts to a little over an hour, but it's the most complex out of all of the kids.

Every Sunday evening, I log into each kid's Google Classroom and hope and pray that their teacher has uploaded assignments. Averson's teachers use Shutterfly (WHY?!), but on the positive side, they're always loaded early and the week is complete. Syd's teacher posts the "week at a glance" with general assignments and zoom topics, but hers is updated daily. Luckily Syd is our most conscientious student so she's good about checking every morning. Eli has a couple classes that I can sketch out, so I mostly focus on Monday for him and then update again on Monday evening. I know it's kind of enabling him and a little helicopter-y, but we needed to know what to be tracking. It was a lot for him to organize himself and MANY things were falling through the cracks. Each kid has a daily schedule, with the corresponding Zoom log in details, and Eli has a breakdown by class as well. 

I also go through and print out all of Averson's worksheets. After a couple weeks of fighting with some of Averson's apps, we finally asked the teachers if we could just print the pages and send pictures. That's made a big difference in her attention and completion. All of her worksheets get put on a clipboard and she works on them at her own pace. Then she just has to take the test on-line. It still feels like she has a lot, but at least it's in a format that makes more sense to her. 

We're on to week 2 (and I'm procrastinating updating my schedules by blogging.) I'm hoping we get into the swing of it, and I'm REALLY hoping we're not distance learning next year (though we will if COVID-19 still feels scary regardless of what the state does.) Word on the street now is that it's going to be a hybrid. Every time I say that my eye twitches a bit more. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Self-care in the time of pandemic


I really bristle when "self-care" is couched in spa days and manicures and chocolate. Those are indulgences that, while they feel good, don't always equate to the equilibrium I'm seeking with my self-care. To me, self-care means those maintenance activities I do that keep me centered and balanced. The first few weeks of the COVID-19 shelter in place were total survival mode, but as we've moved towards sustainability I've been trying to find ways to manage my anxiety level and make sure that I'm at my most efficient energy-wise. I know a lot of people have struggled with this concept while they shelter in place. How can you remain centered and balanced while the world is so chaotic and uncertain? I start with my four basics. Eating, sleeping, breathing, and moving.

Eating: Yep. Doing a lot of that. I've gained five pounds since the quarantine started, despite my whole life believing that if I just ate at home more, I'd be at a healthy weight. BUT, I'm consciously working to drink more water and make sure that I'm having at least a couple servings of fruits or vegetables a day. This is hard because we're only grocery shopping every couple of weeks so perishables...perish. So I supplement by adding a lot of frozen vegetables into recipes and stopping when I see a fruit stand on the way home. Thank God berry season coincides with quarantine!

Sleeping: This one is a work in progress. I don't naturally prioritize rest. I'm not a napper, I don't enjoy sleeping in, I'm basically the yang to C's yin in this case. So for this one, I'm looking at quality over quantity. I'm working to limit screen time before bed. We used part of our stimulus check to buy a new mattress to replace our ten-year-old one that literally has peaks and valleys. I also am not drinking much in the evenings. Pre-Corona, I wasn't a regular drinker but I found myself more and more reaching for a beer or a mule every night. Alcohol is a killer for me sleep-wise so I drink early and in limited quantities :)

Breathing: Whew. This is a tough one for me, which means I've had to be really intentional about it. Here are my two best tips. Headspace and Calm.com have one minute meditations that I try to do at my desk or anytime that I start to feel my anxiety creep up. One minute is really about all I can do right now. Dedicating twenty minutes to a mindfulness exercise just makes me feel more anxious. One minute though, several times a day, I can do. I also started a 30 day yoga challenge through Amazon Prime. I've always loved yoga but I've gotten away from it lately. It's nice to remind myself how to do yogic breathing especially.

Moving: The yoga helps here too. My goal is to complete all thirty days of this video series. Some days are really intense while others are much more gentle, but they're less than 30 minutes which I love and always seems like I can fit it in. I'm also trying to walk the dogs, especially Scout, on a more regular basis. A decent walk with her can be 2 miles of exercise, and the added bonus is that she's less of an asshole. Me too, turns out.

The next steps in Maslow's hierarchy are connection and belonging. I'm not too worried about that because it feels, to me at least, that that's where we focused a lot of our attention early on. C plays poker via Zoom every weekend. I have drinks with friends over Facetime regularly. The kids are obsessed with Messenger Kids and the girls have started sending old fashioned letters to their friends.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Need recipes for Not Meth

It kind of feels like nothing noteworthy happens much anymore. I'm finding that I can only take so many pictures of the kids on their Chromebooks or in the pool. I woke up this morning grateful to have settled into a lifestyle where our weekends are lazy and lack pressure. I'm sure that I'm slightly more grateful since I'm still working outside of the house all week. 
We crafted! The girls and I made these cute animal necklaces after I figured out that Michael's does an awesome curbside pick-up

And Shrinky Dinks! They never get old
Eli has created a basketball court in my entry way and it gets more use than I'd thought it would.
Also I primed the dining room entirely with a paintbrush this week. 

Dunk contests
My sister is really leaning in to the homesteading aspect and managed to buy 5 POUNDS of yeast. She sent me some. Or maybe she didn't? I should smoke it and find out... Also, I NEEDED yeast and have no idea why. I'm a sheep, obvs. Tell me what to do with a giant bag of Not Meth! 

In the pool. ALL. THE. TIME. 
We're still trying to iron out the distance learning thing. C is in charge of it since I'm at work during the day, but three kids with three platforms, plus his own job to do, is A LOT. I thought it might work better to just do it at night, but that doesn't seem to be a great option for their work styles (read: we can't motivate them if they've messed around and watched tv all day.) They seem to be on task but then we keep getting Friday e-mails from the teachers. We're trying something new to organize their time this week, but I'm not sure we'll actually get the hang of it before the end of the year. I'd love to hear any tips or tricks that have worked for others.