Tuesday, March 31, 2020

March ??: Groundhog Day

Working at home continues, punctuated every 30 seconds by a baby screeching, a kid yelling, "Mom," or Coco crying because she has been physically or emotionally injured.

Today, G decided to mix things up by getting into the kitchen trash can while I was logging Coco into her morning Zoom meeting. When I walked back around the kitchen counter, I found her sucking on a granola bar wrapper.

Yesterday, the weather was beautiful and I did yoga out on the deck on my lunch hour. This makes working at home feel blissful.

Yesterday, my five year old interrupted a Zoom advising meeting I was having with a student to ask me if she could have a fruit roll-up. This makes working at home feel less desirable.

The truth is I have nothing to complain about here, but I feel very worried on behalf of other people. I am limiting my risk and exposure, but I'm still afraid of getting sick. I had to go pick up a prescription at Walgreens yesterday and while I was out, I went to Home Depot to get a few things we needed to finish painting all the trim in our house. I realized I was actually very, very paranoid about getting sick. I kept my shirt sleeves pulled down over my hands and left my sunglasses on to help me remember to not touch my face. I carried two handiwipes in my pockets so I could wipe my hands after using the self-checkout. Everything I touched felt like a potential threat--a surface on which a virus could be lingering. When I got home, I immediately used the neti-pot, thinking I might flush out any airborne germs from my nose, and then took a shower, tossing my clothes in the laundry basket for them to sit untouched for three days.

Was it an overreaction? Probably. But that's the thing I keep reading about... if we don't get sick, if we don't have the kind of crisis here that they are having in New York, then it feels like an overreaction. But if that does happen here, then it's because we failed to react. So what feels like an overreaction is actually an appropriately proactive, preventative strategy.

All I know is that I don't really want to leave my house again.

Meanwhile, we keep eating our way through our groceries. I read that Instacart and Amazon are on strike, and I don't know that we need to further impose upon those folks who aren't getting paid enough for what they're doing since we are actually capable of going to the store ourselves, but the thought of going to the store gives me the heebie jeebies. If David goes instead of me, I'm going to insist that he wear gloves.

Every time I think about not touching my face, my nose itches.

Also on the home front, we are very busy with this painting project and I am loving the results. It feels really shallow and superficial to be so excited about the way painting wood trim white is lightening and brightening up the whole house. But shallow and superficial pleasures also feel necessary in the midst of a pandemic in which I have zero control over anything except my own choices.

Zuzu saw a friend of hers out in the neighborhood next to ours and begged to run over and say hello. I told her she had to stay far away but she could shout hello. It's a kid she knows from school who has some chronic health issues. I think about how terrified her mom must be. The girls yelled hello from our driveway and waved.

I'm missing my twice-daily chats with G's babysitter. She's posted on FB how sad she feels about her son missing the big high school milestones of senior year--his track season, prom, graduation.

I'm also feeling sad about Coco missing the big milestones of her Montessori kindergarten year--the field trips and activities that she's literally looked forward to since she was three years old and all she wanted to be when she grew up was "a kindergartener." They won't get to go to the arch and eat at the Old Spaghetti Factory for lunch. They won't get to have their graduation ceremony where they serve their parents lemonade and the teachers talk about the strengths and characteristics of each child. They won't get to play on the new playground equipment they were so excited about that got installed during spring break.

And these are tiny problems compared to the risks healthcare workers are taking every day. The decisions they are making about whether to come home to their families or stay away for their protection. The fear--or the very present reality--of not having enough equipment to keep doctors and nurses safe and to treat patients adequately.

Of course the economic fallout is on my mind... I've read some promising things about how this should be an economic blip rather than a fullout recession, but I don't even want to look at how my retirement account has plunged. And yet this is nothing compared to small businesses that are shutting down and service workers who are suddenly unemployed.

It makes me feel incredibly lucky and that is an uncomfortable feeling too, because I'm all too aware of how precarious and fickle luck is, how quickly it could turn and flip and I could find myself on the wrong side of it. It's not about merit or planning or reward for work well done. It's about luck and proximity and those tiny choices that add up to whether or not your job is still paying you or you sat near someone who coughed before they even knew they were sick.

But it's not entirely luck, is it? A lot of it is also the result of privilege. And when privilege is consistently denied to specific populations, they will always be at greater risk and pay a greater price. I have tried to become involved in social justice work in my community, and this pandemic is laying bare the link between social justice and basic human rights--including healthcare. It also makes me feel helpless because now the issue is life or death in many cases and the only thing I can do at present is... stay home. Zoom into work meetings. Paint my trim. Rock my baby. Do yoga on the deck.

It has my head spinning, and I know I'm not saying anything new or original or different from what other folks in my position are likely to be thinking and feeling. It's still just mind boggling, though, and I can't even articulate it exactly.

When the sun shines and the kids are playing outside and the baby is napping in her crib and, in theory, I should be able to take a deep breath and relax and enjoy myself... I am always thinking about the fact that the only reason I'm experiencing this very pleasant Tuesday morning at home is because there is a global pandemic killing off thousands of people.

Maybe it's better when the kids are screaming and I don't feel like I can concentrate on work and I'm desperate to have even a few minutes to myself--because then at least I feel like I'm struggling, too?

We are mapping out daily activities, clinging to some kind of structure. Daily yoga. School work. Outside play. A mindless distraction on TV. (The girls have been watching a lot of Fuller House but Coco also says it's "embarrassing" because of all the kissing, which I find hilarious.) A good book (I'm currently reading this and you should 100% order it from your favorite independent bookstore--it's so good. And you know who else thinks so? Sarah Jessica Parker.)

I'm off to my next Zoom meeting... xoxo

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some Lists

Things I'm Avoiding Reading Too Much About
- How to be cozy at home (I feel like this is already an area of expertise for me)
- What to have in your emergency kit (This headline boosts my heart rate just reading it. I literally saw one today that said "The 70+ Items to Have in Your Emergency Kit.")
- Coronavirus death rates and predictions
- Numbers of ventilators and ICU beds
- Lack of protective masks for healthcare workers

Things I'm Wondering
- Where the hell is the remote control to the TV in our main TV room?
- Where the hell is the remote control to the TV in our bedroom?
- How the hell do we keep the baby out of the dog water dish while still allowing the dogs access to their water?

Things I Need
- A firm schedule. (We're working on it. It's not easy.)
- To get up with my alarm instead of rolling over and dozing back off because I don't have to leave the house at 7:30am.
- The baby to sleep through the night.
- To not stay up until midnight reading books about how to get the baby to go back to sleep on her own without crying.
- The weather to get nice and warm.

Things I Miss
- Meeting up with friends.
- Chatting with G's babysitter.
- Sunshine.
- Housekeeping.
- Not having a vaguely panicky feeling every time I think about whether we need to go to the grocery store.
- Being able to work/read/think without interruption or distraction.
- Listening to podcasts in my car.

Things I Love
- The new bookcases that are all painted and waiting to cure.
- Little Fires Everywhere on Hulu.
- Two digital timers I ordered from Amazon before the virus crisis that I use to give the girl's a visual countdown and time how long they get to play on the computer.
- Not having to pump.
- Snuggles with Cooper.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Homebound, Continued.

We are now officially off of spring break and into whatever this new normal is for the foreseeable future. Right now, our schools are saying they will be back in session after April 3. Two nearby districts have already called off through the end of the year. It's hard to imagine that we'll go back.

We haven't really talked about that possibility with the girls. They were bummed about not being able to go visit my parents this past weekend. Zuzu actually said to me, "I would rather get sick than not see my friends or grandparents!" which I can understand and is also clearly the kind of short-sighted philosophy a lot of people are practicing.

I just read about a twelve-year-old who has Covid 19 and is not doing well. She has no significant underlying health issues and they're not sure how she contracted it. At first, my worries were mostly for other people, but keeping myself and my family healthy is also a major concern at this point.

It's my friends in the medical field that have me freaked out. I'm limiting news exposure but the dystopian novel vibes are unavoidable.

I guess we are homeschooling, although I'm calling it homeschooling lite. We start the day with math and then read a book and after that we are very flexible. Right now the girls are rollerskating on the deck. It's cold outside--high in the upper 40s today. We had real actual snow yesterday which was kind of pretty but all I want is sunshine and 70 degree weather. The end of this week looks promising.

I am missing uninterrupted time more than anything else. The ability to concentrate on anything without being asked for a drink of water or having to run to see why Coco is crying (the answer is almost always Zuzu, but occasionally she bonked or scraped something, usually because of Zuzu). The ability to think about something with my whole brain instead of a part of me always watching the baby or thinking about what we're going to eat next. Ugh. Cooking and cleaning up is the worst and it's basically the rhythm of our whole life now.

I'm also a slave to the baby's schedule and she's trying to drop her morning nap which means her schedule is unpredictable and she's fussy but then will spend 20 minutes fighting a nap until I give up. Hoping this means she'll sleep longer in the afternoon, but who knows? Plus I think her teeth are bothering her, so we're not sleeping well at night either.

I put on a sweater with leggings instead of a hoodie today so that feels like work clothes. David had Zoom meetings scheduled from 8-10 so at 10 we switch so that he's parenting and I'm headed down to the basement to work for a couple of hours without being interrupted (hopefully... somehow interruptions seem to work differently for Mama than they do for Dad at our house).

I'm stressing out quite a bit about Cooper. I think I wrote about taking him to the vet a couple weeks ago and they thought it was an infected tooth. They gave him antibiotics and that did the trick, so he went for another visit on Friday. David drove him but had to wait in the car--it was paws-only allowed in the office. They came out to the car and got Cooper, then called David on the phone to talk through the exam. His tooth is better. He's not a good candidate for surgery so we watch and if there's a problem, we can do another round of antibiotics. Unfortunately, he's injured his other leg. Tore his doggy ACL in his good leg. So he's really having trouble walking. He's on meds for that, which should help his joints, and he'll take these meds indefinitely. The new deck should help since he has fewer steps and can walk out even with the yard, but he's so set in his ways that he wants to follow his old path and he seems confused by the change. And he's having a lot of accidents.

We have him wearing a diaper basically all the time, but then we have to take it off of him when he goes outside. Then we have scenarios like the one that just played out, where he wants to go outside so I remove his diaper and let him out. Then I go back to checking e-mail, feeding the baby cheerios, whatever, and a few minutes later he wants in. He can't really get himself up the little step to get inside, so I lift him up and haul him in the house. He then walks down the hallway and as soon as he steps on the carpet in the living room, he pees.

Clearly I need to put a diaper on him the minute he gets in the house, but I really thought he would go while he was out. It's so frustrating and I feel so bad for him and I worry that things are going to get worse instead of better.

While I'm complaining, I'd like to also say that all I did this weekend was clean up messes that were not mine. Spilled drinks, chewed up stuffies (Clementine IS STILL CHEWING and is officially THE WORST DOG EVER except she's mostly not peeing in the house except I did discover a random spot in the guest room so she must have gotten locked in there), baby food puree, dirty diapers, dog pee, and in spite of this constant wack-a-mole of wiping up grossness and daily vacuuming, the whole house still feels dirty. Five people and two dogs being together at home 24 hours a day just dirty up a house, you know? It's not like you can straighten it up before leaving for work and then come home to a tidy living room.

Relevant side note: Do you know what I hate? Blanket forts. Like just leave my pillows and couch cushions where they belong. How dare you want to have imaginative childhood play? I just washed all the throw blankets and I actually don't want them on the floor or draped over dog crates. Just sit quietly on the couch without moving the perfectly fluffed pillows, okay?

(I actually clench my jaw and take deep breaths and let them build their blanket forts but oh my word I just need the weather to warm up so I can send them outside with beach towels to build forts on the swing set and hammock.)

Last night after all the kids were in bed, David patted the couch next to him and said, "Come sit by me." I replied, "I'm just going to sit over here with no one touching me for a little while."

Of course the baby is all over me all day, but when she's not, Coco wants to be on my lap and also has started wanting to kiss me (perfect new thing start doing during a pandemic). It is SO MUCH closeness and I love snuggling them so much but also I get to the point where I want to claw my neck skin off.

David had to go into work yesterday and open the building so teachers could gather belongings and students could come pick up medicines. I kept asking him to tell me more about his day because my day was NOTHING. NOTHING HAPPENED.

Enough complaining. Let's talk about the good things.

On Saturday morning, I had a Zoom meeting with friends from college and we drank coffee and checked in, which was delightful.

The girls want to have a morning meeting, so each day we talk about the weather, the date, the plans for the day, and do an emotional check-in. My favorite thing Zuzu taught me is if someone is describing how they are feeling and you can connect with it, you close your pointer finger and thumbs together in a circle and link them together so they're connected. It's like a silent way to say, "Me too!"

The sweetest thing is that the girls have both been emotionally at a 5 (the happiest) because we're all here together. I am so grateful that they get along so well and keep each other entertained. I expect they'll get a little tired of each other, and it's not like there's never any bickering, but they really are such good friends. It has definitely made the social distancing easier, although they miss their friends from school, too.

Since their schools are just back from spring break today, we will hear more later this week about "distance learning." Coco's school plans to have lots of Zoom meetings, at least with the kindergarteners, so that should be interesting. The girls facetimed with friends yesterday (another pair of sisters the same age) and they were sooooo wild and silly.

So I guess this is our new normal for however long this lasts. My thoughts are with the healthcare workers who are putting themselves out there every day and with the service industry workers who are coping with sudden unemployment. We are doing our part to stay home and flatten the curve. And sending lots of love out into the universe.

And I am really so grateful that we are all here. That we are all home and safe and healthy. That we have a house with a basement that is providing a quiet workspace. That I have a pandemic partner and co-parent I actually like. That we have technology and wifi and streaming entertainment. But it's still hard to sit in uncertainty, and that's where we all are. It could be much worse, but normal life is much better!

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Leprechauns are A-Holes

Let me begin by saying we do not make much of St. Patrick's Day. I decorate for lots of minor holidays--Valentines day gets pink and red hearts, Easter is pastel bunnies and birds, I put up Fourth of July banners and we've got pumpkins that turn to jack-o-lanterns and then I pull out the turkeys to get us through fall before busting out Christmas decor. We are plenty festive, is what I'm saying.

But we aren't Irish. We aren't Catholic. And (here's where I admit what a grinch I am) parades are not my favorite thing. I don't love crowds and I loathe port-a-potties, so dragging my family downtown to a St. Patrick's Day parade is unlikely to ever happen unless my kids really beg for it. St. Patrick's Day was virtually ignored by my parents (I don't even know if we wore green) and wasn't a thing when I was at school, so it's just not really on my radar.

(I am all about celebrating pi day with pie, though.)

Anyway, like most of us world wide, I've been feeling a little stressed of late and St. Paddy's day was not really even on my mind as I headed into the office yesterday.

HOWEVER. I try to be a fun mom. So I wore a green cardigan and even put G in her little green "Stay Lucky" shirt (the girls all have matching ones). I let the girls eat Lucky Charms for breakfast. I really thought that this was a perfectly sufficient acknowledgement of a holiday that means nothing to me. I certainly was not in a place where I felt I had the bandwidth to imagine, let alone enact, some leprechaun antics. And really, green beer doesn't do it for me.

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash
But apparently a leprechaun got into Zuzu's first grade classroom last year. He turned chairs upside down! He covered up all the vowels in the alphabet posted on the wall! HOW HILARIOUS. I guess this made an enormous impression on Zuzu. I had no idea.

I did not realize that the girls were eagerly anticipating a leprechaun visit. This is not something that has happened before and not something that David and I have EVER talked about. I've joked about leprechauns pinching people who don't wear green (Coco apparently thinks leprechauns look like crabs with pincer claws, lol) but I have never even hinted that a leprechaun might come to our house.

I did not know that the girls constructed an elaborate leprechaun trap that involved Cadbury eggs carefully placed in a small tupperware container, rocks, and string. When their trap did not produce a leprechaun (and they had a full day at home essentially just free ranging while David and his dad worked outside), they apparently decided to create their own leprechaun antics as a surprise for David and me.

Guess how two stressed out parents are going to react to surprise leprechaun antics?

If you're not sure how we might respond, let's try to imagine the following scenario:

Imagine you arrive home from work after a stressful day of trying to figure out what work even looks like when you're doing it all remotely and students are stressed out about credits and projects and research and abandoned study abroad experiences. Imagine you have schlepped home your laptop, books, papers, and your breast pump because you don't know when you'll make it back to the office and you are not sure how you'll do your job remotely while also homeschooling two children and caring for a baby.

Imagine that your partner has been doing manual labor building a deck all day and is exhausted physically as well as being stressed out about what social distancing and school cancellations means for his school community.

And then imagine that when you walk in the house, you see that this "leprechaun" got into your pantry and opened the flour and spilled flour all over the floor of the kitchen and then tracked it to make leprechaun footprints all the way down the hallway to the living room.

Imagine there are three dogs at your house who are now licking up the flour and also running around tracking it everywhere and jumping on the furniture.

Also imagine that this leprechaun likes coins (we know all leprechauns love gold coins, right, but apparently in a pinch any old coin will do). Imagine this leprechaun climbed up on a chair to get the huge beer stein that holds your spare change. Imagine this spare change--ALL OF IT--was then scattered all over the floor of your kitchen, through the flour, down the hallway then on through the living room, the book room, the foyer, and dining room.

Imagine you have a 10-month-old baby who now cannot be put down on the floor.

Imagine how you might react.

There was a lot of yelling, you guys.

And I feel bad because I think the girls really thought that we would think it was a hilarious joke.

Readers, we did not find it hilarious.

So there was yelling and the asking of fruitless questions: "What were you thinking?" (David to the girls) and also "Why weren't you watching them?" (me to David) and then lots of blaming: "They're old enough to know better." (David to me) but also "No, actually, they are FIVE and SEVEN and this is why children need ADULT SUPERVISION!" (me to David).

Then Zuzu ran away (literally).

The thing you have to know about Zuzu is that she fights fire with fire. You literally cannot yell at her and get her to do anything. She will scream right back and slam a door in your face. She ain't skeered of her parents and she gives zero shits if we are furious or disappointed. I also think she was shocked by our reaction (she really thought it was going to be funny) and then embarrassed that she had been so wrong about it. But because we (and by we I really do mean David) got so mad so fast, she just got mad right back. She screamed that she was going to live in the woods and then ran out the door and into the woods.

No one went after her because we were busy cleaning the house so it was literally inhabitable for our youngest child.

Coco (bless her heart) got teary-eyed because she was in trouble and then helped me pick up the coins so her baby sister wouldn't choke on them. David swept up the flour and then Coco watched the baby while I swept and then mopped all the hardwood floors.

And eventually Zuzu she limped back home crying because she was sad and because she hadn't put on shoes and was cold and had cut her foot on a stick.

So then I put her in the bath tub and we talked about making mistakes and how the best response to making a mistake is to say you're sorry and help to fix things and make them right, not to run away in order to avoid dealing with the mistake. I know that's a hard lesson for any of us, especially seven year olds.

I still felt a lot of frustration with David rather than the girls because they had obviously been completely unsupervised or they wouldn't have been able to make this mess. I actually said to him, "I'm feeling really frustrated!" and he said, "I know, me too." And I had to clarify, "No... my frustration is WITH YOU."

You know how it is when everyone is tired, stressed out, and essentially under house arrest for the foreseeable future. I mean, really. I don't need to explain. You all know how it is.

I took a hot bath last night. It did not really make me feel better.

Then I went downstairs and decided to finish off the brownies we'd made.

That F@#$ing leprechaun had frosted the last brownie with toothpaste.

(At least that was honestly a pretty good joke.)

Takeaways: St. Patrick's Day is officially my least favorite holiday.

I need to take control of the leprechaun mischief so the girls do not do it themselves.

Next year I'll just put green food coloring in the toilets and call it a day.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Atomic Bombs and Microbe Viruses

I've been listening to the podcast The Daily, which focuses on one news story (usually about 20 minutes) per day. I think it's created by NYT writers. Anyway, the content is always great and, as you might guess, lately it's been All Virus, All the Time.

Today, though, I listened to an episode from last week that was a short (8 minute) reprieve from virus talk and included writers reading aloud some of their favorite writers. One guy read this excerpt from C.S. Lewis's essay "On Living in an Atomic Age," which he wrote in 1940. I found it really moving--I got misty eyed in my car--and I'm still thinking about it.

In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. “How are we to live in an atomic age?” I am tempted to reply: “Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London almost every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night; or indeed, as you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air raids, an age of railway accidents, an age of motor accidents.”

In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented: and quite a high percentage of us were going to die in unpleasant ways. We had, indeed, one very great advantage over our ancestors—anesthetics; but we have that still. It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty.

This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.

- C. S. Lewis "On Living in an Atomic Age" from Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

I'll be working from home starting tomorrow. It would have been today, but my memory is the first thing compromised when I'm feeling stressed out and I went off and left 12 ounces of breast milk in the fridge here at work, so I came back in for the day. Also, my office is quiet and my house is... not. David and his dad are working on another big project putting in some decking to cover our back patio area, which means that he just lets Zuzu and Coco free range all day long. That's FINE for a few days of spring break, but it's not ideal for a month (more than a month???) that includes both of us trying to work remotely.

At any rate, the first thing we need to do is to pull ourselves together. For me, this means making a meal and snack plan like I do during the summer and creating a fairly regular routine for the kids in terms of "school." There are so many online resources. I think our plan is to try to do some math and reading in the morning and then let them pick something to "investigate" in the afternoon (science or social studies) and then maybe alternate doing art or music, by which I mean using art supplies we already have or singing along with Raffi. I am planning to keep it suuuuper simple. We don't usually do screen time on week days, but we'll obviously break that rule for online school stuff on the computer or educational games on the tablets. I'd still like to enforce the no TV-shows rule on weekdays but if I'm being realistic, that 4-5pm hour is likely to be show time.

(Except not LEGO Girls because their snotty attitudes can suck it. I wish there were a way to REMOVE shows from watching availability in streaming services. If anyone knows this secret, please tell me. Zuzu is highly influenced by what she watches and she imitates the characters in her play and in her real life, so if she's watching bratty characters she's acting like a brat. Shimmer and Shine might be annoying AF but at least they are kind and supportive of one another.)

I'm still torn about what to do about G going to her babysitter's house. On the one hand, my productivity will sink if she's home all day. She's not being exposed to anyone new, and the circle of people is pretty small. On the other hand, when you think about three kids, each with two parents, parents may still be going to work, it's easy to see how numbers grow exponentially. I have no idea who those other people might have been exposed to, and obviously babies aren't keeping their mucus to themselves. It's likely we'll keep her home, too.

And so we keep on--praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, facetiming friends and family, painting bookcases and playing board games. We have a box of wine and a pantry of canned goods and stacks of books (literally, since they are not currently on the bookcases). A microbe may break our bodies, but it need not dominate our minds.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Life in the Time of Coronavirus

I went to work this morning. My university has moved to remote learning for the remainder of the semester and my supervisor said it's fine for us to work remotely, but my work laptop was at work and my office is quiet and there are only four of us in my department. I felt okay about going in. My commute was a breeze. So few cars on the road. Tons of available parking when I rolled in--early.

At the beginning of The Secret Garden, Mary Lennox wakes up at her home in India and she's really mad that no one has come to take care of her. The reader discovers in this chapter that she's spoiled and selfish, but also that her parents didn't seem to really care about her. The reader also discovers that no one has come to take care of her because everyone is dead of cholera. She snacks from the remains of a dinner party that ended abruptly because of the cholera outbreak.

I had no sense of what cholera was when I first read the book. I know I'd never heard the word before because in my head I pronounced it "chaw-lera." But I understood it was an eerie scene, and that the soldiers who discovered one living little girl among all the dead were stunned.

The first thing I did when I got to work today was wipe down my office with Clorox wipes.

David is home on spring break this week. The girls seem to have little sense/concern for what is going on except for a disappointment that a friend's birthday party has been canceled and I think we'll probably have to cancel our plans to visit my parents this coming weekend. We also canceled a non-essential dental appointment for Zuzu to have a sealer put on her teeth. I think we'll also cancel G's InfantSee appointment for this week. I love the program, but I don't have specific concerns about her eyes and I feel like potential exposure to the virus has to be our priority at this time.

I had thought that we could still arrange little playdates with friends they'd already been exposed to at school, but now I'm reading that we shouldn't do that either. I'd actually suggested to one friend we meet up at a park but (1) it's raining and 40 degrees right now and (2) the virus can live on plastic and metal surfaces for three days, so... Unless I want to clorox wipe an entire playground, that doesn't seem like something we're going to be doing.

We are currently looking at three weeks of "social distancing." David and I are going to start painting our wood trim white (my parents are the only people I know who seem to think this is a bad idea, but it's not like the wood trim in our old, lovely, built in the 1930s with stained glass windows house--it's 1980s trim and I don't hate it, but I think when it's white I'll love it). That should keep us busy and be a satisfying project (assuming we avoid spilling primer on carpet).

David and his dad put together built-in bookcases for me in our front room yesterday. It literally took them all day long, but it looks fantastic. Today they're going to trim it out and caulk it and then we'll prime and paint and start priming and painting the trim in that room as well. I cannot wait to get them all finished!

This feels like an excellent way to exert control over the thing we can control in these uncertain times. Similarly, I did a zillion loads of laundry yesterday and cleaned out and organized the hall closet and the master bathroom closet and drawers.

Related: I have tried a lot of natural deodorants. Native works best for me, but only the coconut scent. Jasmine and Papaya are a no-go. I've passed the Jasmine along to Zuzu, who really only needs it if we've somehow missed baths for three days (hey, it happens occasionally) and who thinks it "smells good but feels kinda weird." Meanwhile, Coco--never one to be left out--takes a bath and then marches into Zuzu's room in her undies to announce she seeds some "dolorant" and applies it with a very self-satisfied expression.

I have had trouble falling asleep at night, which is unusual for me as my life is kind of exhausting. But I know I'm carrying tension and I need to be doing more yoga but since David's dad was at our house this morning, my regular routine was disrupted.

One of my favorite consignment shops emailed that they are closing at this time and admitted in the e-mail that they don't know how their business will recover--they can't afford to pay workers who aren't working and they aren't yet set up to sell clothes online. I can only imagine that there are countless more small businesses like them, and I think about the cute little coffee shop in my home town, our favorite independent bookstore (which is offering curbside pick up and I am going to swing by after work today), and the restaurant industry, which employees so many people who don't have a cushion of paid leave or remote work to fall back on. I understand and sympathize with all the folks like us who are trying to work from home while also caring full time for kids whose schools have been canceled--especially single parents who don't have a partner to trade off parenting shifts--, but there are so many far worse off who can't work from home and don't know how they will provide for their kids whose schools have been cancelled. (Although I know there are programs now that are preventing utilities from being shut off and landlords who will not evict folks during this time.)

I'm also reading a lot of stuff about community and how community comes together when we literally cannot come together physically. I guess I'm trying to document this time because it does feel historical.

We are currently out of school until April 3, but rumors are already swirling that we need 8 weeks of social distancing rather than 3, that no one should expect to return to school this year. Because this week is technically spring break for our school district, it feels like an odd kind of normal, since we were already prepared for the kids to be home this week. G's babysitter is still open and since she just takes three little ones, we felt okay about sending G this week. She texted us last night that she's healthy and will maintain a normal routine for our babies. But even now I wonder whether the other families are social distancing and what that might look like in terms of exposure, and we're likely to be keeping G home with us soon. I'm still not panicky about our health necessarily, but the community effect of this illness is alarming to say the least. My supervisor has given us all permission to work remotely so now it becomes a matter of deciding when that should happen (tomorrow? Thursday? next week?).

Also we are going to have to limit screen time for my kids because it still makes Zuzu so monstrous. She imitates what she watches and LEGO Friends is no longer an option because those girls are shit heads and their sassy, snotty tone of voice is not one I enjoy hearing from my seven-year-old. You want to watch TV? Well you can watch Mr. Rogers AND THAT'S IT.

Anyway, I need to make sure I know how to Zoom for students who are also sad and freaking out about the truncated semester and work left undone and I feel sad for high school seniors and college seniors and students who planned to be abroad this semester. No prom for the class of 2020, and likely no commencement ceremony, either.

I hope everyone is staying healthy, staying sane, and staying home. The truth is I love staying home, but even introverts get antsy about this situation.

Friday, March 13, 2020

What a Week.

It's no exaggeration to say that we've never experienced a week like this. My honest reaction to the coronavirus response is a vacillation between a kind of quiet thrill that my busy calendar just cleared itself (so much space for reading novels at home!) and an existential dread about the impending collapse of our capitalist economy and perhaps the unraveling of the very social fabric of our existence. You know, the usual.

I am concerned about all the folks who are most vulnerable to this crisis--the elderly, the immuno-compromised, those with respiratory issues. I would also be lying if I didn't say that the fact that it doesn't seem to be particularly devastating for children has kept my anxiety at a very low hum rather than full throttle panic. My aunt and I were talking about polio in the 1950s and how terrifying that must have been for parents of small kids. But I imagine the experience was also quite different without the onslaught of up-to-date information from a zillion different sources of varying levels of repute.

From a privileged point of view, I'm relieved we didn't have travel plans and didn't have to make any difficult decisions about that. From a human point of view, I recognize those kinds of decisions aren't anywhere near the level of difficulty that some people are going to have to manage when it comes to lack of health insurance, lack of sick leave, lack of adequate childcare, and the need to pay bills. I've seen others comment on this more eloquently, but it is a shocking and undeniable exposure of the enormous rift in our society between haves and have-nots--and I'm not talking about those who have yachts and summer homes in the Hamptons. I'm talking about those who can afford to see a doctor and those who cannot. It's impossibly unfair.

And of course I have no confidence in our political leadership, which is an underlying anxiety as well.

As for the minutiae of my daily life, my campus is empty of students and as I'm now in a staff position rather than faculty, I'm still showing up to campus. The good news is that I don't have to try to figure out how to move discussion-based classes online (Also I'm thinking of friends who teach chemistry labs and the like! How do you even?). Also, parking on campus is a breeze. The bad news is that campus is eerily empty and I'm now having advising appointments over the phone or via Zoom. Interacting with students and talking about their plans and advising them on projects and scholarship opportunities is my favorite part of my job. So it feels really odd and unsettling.

Zuzu has heard about the coronavirus. She reported that a friend from school has it (FALSE) and she has wanted to learn more about it. Monday or Tuesday evening I went upstairs to find her in her room, listening to NPR on her little radio/cd player. She does not seem particularly concerned, but definitely curious.

Coco came to work with me yesterday. Her school was not closed for the virus, but because of parent/teacher conferences. She was actually so good at work with me. She did worksheets from a kindergarten work book all day long (literally a huge stack of them--probably 50 pages). My coworkers were also very sweet about entertaining her. We visited a friend in another department on campus and mid-afternoon took a break for her to literally run to various statues and landmarks on campus and then run back to me while I timed her. Poor kid is definitely used to being much more active than we were for most of the day! Of the three, though, Coco is undoubtedly the easiest one to bring to work.

Meanwhile, I'm also wrapping my mind around the fact that I actually have an almost-one-year-old. G is standing and balancing and screeching (we call her the baby pterodactyl because of the screeching sounds she makes) and saying "mamamama" and "da-da!" and when I ask her if she wants mama-milk and do the sign language for milk, she laughs in delight and wriggles her whole body in excitement.

(She's still not sleeping through the night and I feel like I got approximately four hours of sleep last night between staying up too late reading and then baby waking and nursing and my own brain not turning off.)

So that's what's going on here. I'm trying to decide if I should go to the store or try to do Instacart this weekend (I know they're swamped, so I'm leaning toward shopping, but my friend just posted a pic online of a LINE out the door at Aldi. On a weekday morning. What is happening?). I have plans to get a happy hour drink with a friend tonight, and we were both like, "Is this still okay to do?" I'm still not sure. These are strange times.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

When Monday Punches You in the Face

One thing about this new job and the fact that I don't have stacks of grading to do is that my weekends are pretty blissful. However, I actually had to work an event this past weekend and give a couple of presentations on the honors program to prospective students interviewing for a full-tuition scholarship. I'd never even seen this presentation before, so I watched someone else do it twice and then I had to do it. Somehow this seemed like no big deal, but as the presentation is AN HOUR LONG and I don't have the historical experience with the program to draw from, it ended up being a little stressful. My first presentation was definitely a dress rehearsal--I talked too fast, my jokes landed flat, we wrapped up ten minutes before we were supposed to. The second presentation went much better.

Exhausted from that performance (and wearing heels!) I actually took a nap that afternoon, which was bliss. David and I put the kids to bed and watched a TV show that night and I had two glasses of wine! Solid way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening. (I'm so old and boring and I don't care at all.)

Sunday was a busy but fun day. The weather was gorgeous--sunny and nearly 70 degress! We went to church, which was a music performance. Coco had her OWL class and Zuzu had the choice of staying with us and listening to music or going out with the second to fifth grade kids to do an activity and then play outside. She chose to go out with the kids, which was a big deal because it's taken her a long time to feel comfortable/confident going to Sunday school, especially without Coco. I was delighted. 

After church, we headed home to eat lunch and then went out to a nearby park with lots of hiking trails. Approximately everyone else and their dog was there, so parking was kind of bonkers, but then we did some good hiking. The trails were steep and rocky--both girls stumbled or slipped and fell at least once, and they wanted to stop and eat snacks every twelve feet, but they were still good sports. I kind of love this sweet spot where they are independent and capable, but they still like to hold my hand. Being out in the sunshine felt so amazing. I wanted to soak it up. It has been a long, hard winter and I am ready for the seasonal shift.

David carried G on his back and she snoozed the entire time. Such a good baby. 

Some breaking news unrelated to this weekend: Coco's hair has been a source of mild angst for me. She has desperately wanted it to be long since she cut it herself two years ago. It has grown pretty fast from a pixie to down past  her shoulders, but it's just... not that cute. It's thin and and fine and it just looks stringy all the time. We saw a little girl with a super cute bob and Coco commented that she used to have that haircut when she was four. I commented on how much I liked it and how it looks like the tres chic haircut that Kiki gets in the book Kiki and Coco in Paris. Suddenly, Coco said she wanted to get her hair cut in a bob! I called right away but they were booked this past weekend, so we have an appointment for next weekend and I am thrilled. 

After our afternoon hike, we went home for a change of clothes and diaper and then turned around and headed out to a friend's first birthday part at the Little Gym! It was actually super fun for the big girls, as most of the guests were crawling babies, so they had a lot of the equipment to themselves. Coco showed off her gymnastics moves on the parallel bars and Zuzu attacked all the equipment with her ninja warrior skills. They enjoyed cupcakes and potato chips and were worn out enough from the fresh air and hiking and the little gym activity that there was no protesting about leaving a bit early. Genevieve was delighted to crawl around unrestrained and play with balloons and grin at all of the other parents. She was the most social baby! I guess I haven't really seen her interact much with strangers, but she was happy to be there and not at all clingy--very adventurous baby! 

I dropped Coco and G at home and Zuzu and I drove up to Nordstrom Rack to get her a new pair of shoes for PE. We had a disagreement about what kind of sneakers--I wanted her to get running shoes, she wanted white shoes with laces. I let  her win because I just want her to get shoes that she will actually wear to school, but I still have some regrets because tying laces still involves time and occasionally drama and I am NOT here for that. But the shoes are cute and she was very pleased.

Everyone got a good bath after a busy day and they all went to sleep pretty quickly. I thought I had myself ready for Monday morning (coffee and lunch prepped the night before--making lunch is THE WORST, Genevieve's outfit and mine laid out and ready to go) but I just kept hitting a snafu (couldn't find my phone, never removed it from the charger it was on all night, my sock kept getting bunched up in my shoe, etc.). Then when I was loading up G in the car, I looked at my phone for the first time all morning and saw that our back up babysitter was having some kind of outbreak of hives and wasn't sure she could keep the baby. 

We adjusted pretty quickly--David ended up staying home with G, we did a last minute switching of cars, but I still left for work with the baby's bottles in my car with me instead of at home with the baby.

I was hoping that would be the biggest snafu of the day, but then I got to work and was marching my way across the street and up the sidewalk, carrying my big shoulder bag with wallet, water bottle, planner, pump parts, and my lunch bag and G's milk bottles bag so I could put them in the fridge, plus holding my coffee, and somehow I tripped over the curb and ATE IT. I fell smack on the sidewalk hard. I caught myself with my left hand because my right hand was gripping my coffee container and I'll be damned if I let that coffee spill! My knee also hit the ground pretty good and my new pants didn't rip, but the fabric at the knees grated against the concrete and you can see where it damaged the material. 

The lunch bag I was carrying cushioned my right arm, which was extremely fortuitous for me, but not so much for the avocado inside the lunch bag, which I crushed.

Two people were walking several yards ahead of me and they didn't turn around when I hit the ground, even though I yelled out and my aluminum coffee cup banged the sidewalk. I'm not sure that anyone else saw me--nobody came running over to see if I was okay and I didn't hear anyone laughing at me, either. So I dragged myself up fairly quickly--much quicker than I would have if no one could see me, in which case I probably would have sat there and sniffled for a few minutes. 

I can't even tell you the last time that I literally fell down. I stumbled on my stairs at home once when I was pregnant and hurrying and my socks slipped on the carpet, but I don't know when the last time was that I fell like this. The palm of my hand was all bloody and my knee hurt really bad. I limped to my office (a long walk) and rolled up my pants to discover my knee was also bleeding. Fortunately a coworker had bandaids so I was able to clean myself up, but it's really hard to keep a bandaid on the palm of your  hand--especially when everywhere you turn the media is screaming at you to WASH YOUR HANDS.

It was a helluva Monday. I figure as long as I don't literally fall on my face again, the week can only improve from here.