Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Day in the Life: At Home During the Time of Covid-19

A reminder for my future self: This was Monday, May 18. The Monday of the last week of school work. This is not representative of what most of our time at home was like, because David had to go into the school and open it up to sort and label students' belongings so all their things can be picked up this week. But it's still representative of what our schedules are like--we have a routine, but it's never quite the same from one day to the next--and the struggle to balance working from home, kids doing distance learning, and a baby/toddler on the loose with her own agenda.

6:43 am – everyone is waking up and we are getting out of bed. G has been in her crib all night but D brought her into our bed around 5:30 am to get her to sleep just a little bit longer. David is heading to work today because he has to open up the building and gather students’ belongings to return. I change G and then start my day by checking my email instead of doing yoga because I need to get some work done before David leaves.

7:15 am – I make it downstairs to discover Bubba has had a pee accident in the kitchen, so I’ll be mopping the floor with the steam mop. I put G in her high chair, run the vacuum, and plug in the mop.

7:45 am – David leaves for work. The girls were fighting (viciously) but are now playing happily outside. They haven’t had breakfast, but I want to let the floors dry completely before calling them in to eat.

7:50 am – I’m enjoying my coffee. G is in her high chair eating toast with strawberry preserves and is covered in strawberry. I’m taking a minute to check email and make a list of work priorities for the day, knowing that my window for working will be nap time until D gets home.

8:04 am – G has finished breakfast. I wipe her down and lift her out of the high chair. While I am cleaning the high chair, she gets into the pantry, opens a jar of Galena Street Rib & Chicken Rub Seasoning from Penzy’s and pours a good portion of it on her lap and the floor. I hold her over the sink to brush off her pants and then vacuum the spices and close the pantry with our makeshift baby lock (a giant carabiner clip).

8:30 am – Coco is in her Zoom meeting with her Montessori class (3-6 year olds). Her teacher is preparing the children who will return to school for the summer session for the new routines and systems that will be in place. She shows the children her mask: “Do I look the same?” (A screen full of muted preschoolers shake their heads no). “But can you hear my voice? Am I still me?” (They all nod yes and I get so teary-eyed I go to the laundry room under the pretext of checking the dryer).

8:45 am – as part of the morning meeting, Coco shows her class the art gallery she made for her final kindergarten unit and talks about each artwork—the genre, the medium, why she likes it. We’ve taped her work to the basement wall, but G starts ripping the pieces down as Coco is trying to describe them. I’m holding the laptop so Coco can talk about her work, so I balance it in one hand while trying to hold G back from ripping construction paper. I realize I have no idea what Zuzu is doing, and I could really use her help entertaining the baby.

9:00 am – Art gallery tour over, I find Zuzu asleep on the couch. She stayed up too late last night and got up early this morning. I leave her for now and go to the kitchen to finish cleaning up breakfast and wiping down the table. I check my e-mail and do a couple quick replies, and switch the laundry.

9:15 am – I take G upstairs for a nap.

9:30 am – G is not yet asleep, but it’s time for Coco to read with her teacher, so I dump G in the crib and temporarily ignore her protests while getting Coco set up on Zoom in the other bedroom. Coco reads aloud to her teacher while I go back in and rock G.

9:45 am – G is asleep. Coco is finished reading, is now wearing a mermaid tail skirt, and absorbed in a  pretend game in the book room. Zuzu is still asleep on the couch. I try to rouse her for her 10am class meeting. She does not want to wake up. I remind her it’s the last week of school. She tells me she’ll go to the Wednesday meeting instead. I give up and settle in to get some of my own work done.

10:30 am – I’ve gotten caught up on email and G and Zuzu are both napping. Coco has been outside singing to herself.

11:00 am – Coco comes in and asks if she can get on the ipad. I’m researching potential reading lists and articles for the class I’m teaching this fall, G and Z are both still sleeping (!) so I agree. She sits quietly on the couch next to me and Zuzu snoozes next to me while I work. D calls to see how things are going—very smoothly so far!

12:00 pm – Lunch time. Coco helps me make scrambled eggs and toast and I slice strawberries and apples. We wake up Zuzu to come eat. G is taking an unusually long nap, so now everyone is completely off schedule. Perfect!

12:30 pm – G wakes up. Coco goes up to play with her while I finish cleaning up lunch. Zuzu starts her homework. Today she is supposed to write in her journal, read for 15 minutes, do 15 minutes of math, revise the short story she wrote a couple weeks ago, and do some more research on a native American tribe. I’m only enforcing the first three things. It’s the last week of school—reading, 'riting,and 'rithmatic is all I have the patience for.

12:40 pm – I get G out of her crib and change her diaper. Both of her sisters want to play with her, so I encourage Zuzu to finish her journal entry first. She’s telling her teacher about the book she’s reading—so cute.

1:00 pm – G eats lunch. She’s a good eater. Today it’s turkey meatball and cauliflower. Whole milk mixed with some breast milk I had frozen. And sliced strawberries. She eats happily and I sit down to check email on my phone and Facebook.

1:15 pm – I realize with a jolt that Coco has missed the first fifteen minutes of her daily kindergarten meeting. I have an alert set on my phone for 12:50, but must have missed it making G’s lunch. I get Coco logged in belatedly (she actually doesn’t mind missing journal writing time, but I’m embarrassed because shouldn’t I have our schedule more together by now?). She joins just in time to answer the chatting cherry question: "What’s your favorite slushee?" (Her answer: “The red and blue one. Because it’s Caroline’s favorite, too.”)  They talk about the plans for graduation (nine families attending a socially distant ceremony in a parking lot).

1:20 pm – G has ripped off her bib and tossed the last strawberry slice on the floor, screeching to notify me she is finished eating. The dogs actually aren’t that keen on strawberries and cauliflower, so I take a damp paper towel to the floor under her high chair because my clean up crew is not very helpful. Despite the fact that I steam mopped this morning, the paper towel is gross in a hurry and I wonder if we are so used to living in filth that we can’t see it? It probably should be a clue that I rely on my dogs as clean up crew. Honestly, when I was pregnant and daydreamed about having another baby, I had totally forgotten about high chair messes. Ick.

1:30 pm – I get Coco started on writing her presentation for graduation. She’s going to talk about their space unit. Today’s assignment is to write the opening sentence. She writes, “I like spase.” Check! I continue cleaning the kitchen, pausing to switch the laundry, retrieve G from the dog water, pull G out of the pantry, and fish a random googly eye out of her mouth. When Coco finishes, I deposit G in the living room with her sisters where they encourage her to make high pitched squealing noises by making them back at her. The cacophony is painful and I ask them to go outside.

2:00 pm – finally finish cleaning up the high chair and the rest of the kitchen. I let the girls have yellow cake outside where they are playing with G. Zuzu wants to finish the book she’s reading even though her 15 minutes of required reading are up and I am so relieved and happy about this I can’t even describe it. These are the first books to really, really grab her attention. She liked Zoe and Sassafras, but it’s this Secret Mermaid series from Usborne books that has her hooked. I text her bestie’s parents to see if they can have a Zoom play date at 3pm because this is what it’s like to parent in a dystopian plague.

2:25 pm – Girls back inside. Zuzu working on math in advance of her 3pm deadline. Coco and G playing with toys in the living room. G has a dirty face and a saggy diaper, so I give her face a wipe down and change her.

2:45 pm – Z has finished her math, so I heard all the girls upstairs and supervise the putting away of laundry. We’ve officially moved Zuzu and Coco into the same room, so I remind them whose side is whose in the closet and they put things away in their dresser drawers.

3:00 pm – Zuzu has her “virtual playdate” with her bestie Gemma. I get her logged in and it was cute to see how excited they were. G is getting fussy, so I’m hoping she’ll go down for a nap again. I rock her and use the time to check my work email and then listen to an audio book (The Alice Network – I really liked it even though I wish I could have skipped over one section about WWII atrocities that gave me nightmares).

3:40 pm – G snuggled up to me in the rocking chair but never fell asleep, so I call it quits and unzip her from the sleep sack. I give Zuzu a ten minute warning on wrapping up her zoom playdate and then start organizing the closet in G’s room. It still has some of Coco’s off-season clothes, so I push everything to the right side of the closet and then empty the dresser drawers from the guest room and carry all of G’s clothes in to hang them up or put them in bins on the closet shelves. I realize she is very short on pants that fit. Compared to her sisters, she hardly has any clothes at all! But since we never go anywhere and she gets so filthy playing outside that I often strip her down, she should get through the summer just fine. I feel a wave of nostalgia for all the fun I had dressing up Zuzu in cute coordinating baby and toddler clothes to go today care, where the teachers would always make such a fuss over her outfit of the day.

4:00 pm – I pop into the girls’ bedroom and have Zuzu tell Gemma goodbye. Zuzu and Coco change their clothes and they have Alexa play the soundtrack to Frozen II. They sing and dance along in front of the mirror. I go back to G’s room to keep sorting and organizing the closet, and G staggers back and forth between rooms, happy to play with her sisters and then check in with me and attempt to undo the piles I’ve made.

4:45 pm – Closet is pretty well put together. David texts that he is on his way home. I take G down to the kitchen and give her her favorite snack: graham cracker with cream cheese.

5:00 pm – D gets home and heads for the shower. He’s brought some model magic for the girls, so they come down to the kitchen. G is cleaned up and out of the high chair, but crabby because she didn’t take the nap she needed.

5:15 pm – D is out of the shower so I head upstairs to get a little more work done before dinner. I just have a couple of things to finish up and it doesn't take long.

5:45 pm – I leave with the screechy G to take a stroller walk and listen to a podcast (Young House Love). D is making dinner. Spaghetti squash with spinach artichoke sauce. The girls get pasta and chicken strips.

6:15 pm – Three loops around the adjacent neighborhood and G and I get back home. Our dinner has a few more minutes to go, so Coco and I drive up to her school to pick up her belongings. They’re doing a no contact pick up outside and everyone’s name is written in chalk on the sidewalk with a bag of their school supplies and extra clothes. I snag her snow boots out of the lost and found, as the stickers with her name on them have peeled off. I can’t believe she’s never going back to school there. It should feel sad but it just feels kind of surreal. I wave to a couple other parents and teachers as we all keep our distance and I toss the bags and boots in the back of the car. Coco is very upbeat and quizzes me all the way home: “How much did you practice to learn to drive?" (a year) "What car did you drive?" (Grammy’s car) "Did you crash into a lot of things?" (Well, once I drove my boyfriend’s truck into a ditch) "What’s a ditch?" (a slope off the side of the road) "Who was your boyfriend?" (His name was Matt.) "And then you traded him for Daddy?" (Uh. Well, sort of.) "Because Daddy gets you all the things you want. Like food from the store." (Yes. Exactly.)

6:35 pm – We arrive home and David and I eat dinner. G is toddling around everywhere and getting whiny again. Zuzu is ignoring David’s request to bring the ipad downstairs and plug it in for the night so she loses all screen privileges for the night, which is a bummer for me because I wanted to watch She-Ra with her on Netflix.

7:00 pm – Kitchen is cleaned up so we head upstairs with a load of towels and the baby. I nurse G and then David rocks her to sleep while I play bad cop and confiscate the ipad. The girls are mad and they stomp off down to the basemen. I put away the towels and pull a few clean clothes off the top of the girls’ dirty clothes basket, feeling a surge of rage that SOME PEOPLE think cleaning up just means throwing CLEAN CLOTHES in the laundry and making MORE WORK FOR ME.

7:30 pm – I do a yoga with Adriene video. Clearly I needed it. G is asleep. David scrolls his phone on the couch and the big girls are playing in the basement.

8:00 pm – David takes the big girls up to bed. I take a break from downward dog to give them hugs and kisses. I turn on the last half of an episode of Younger on Hulu and lounge on the acupressure mat I bought from Amazon a couple years ago.

8:30 pm – David returns to the sofa. He turns on John Oliver. I pour a glass of wine and grab my laptop for a last check on email and I'm able to wrap up my loose ends from earlier today, which is very satisfying. David and I talk a little bit about our day and how much we miss President Obama.

9:03 pm – G wakes up and crying comes through the monitor. Normally I’d go up and get her, but I happen to get a phone call from a coworker/friend at the same time, so D goes up.

9:15 pm - G's asleep again, I'm off the phone, and D turns on The Last Dance. He's really into it and I'm half into it, so I watch while also doing some phone scrolling. Primary is having a big sale, so I buy G two swim diapers and footie jammies. I also order myself a used copy of Forever by Judy Blume from AbeBooks because I might teach it in a banned books class this fall.

9:45 pm - We let the dogs out to pee, then put Clem in her house and Coop settles on his bed. David and I head upstairs. He goes to bed (and falls asleep instantly, per usual) while I take a shower and wash my hair. I blow dry my bangs and go to bed with the rest of my hair wet.

10:00 pm  - I read in bed. First a couple chapters of a novel and then an essay in Malcolm Gladwell's book Talking to Strangers

10:43 pm - Lights out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Dispatches from Home Quarantine: Mother's Day 2020, Baby G Update, Odds & Ends

Sometimes I wonder if I actually have feelings or if I am merely reflecting the weather because today's rain has me feeling bleak even though nothing has really changed.

This was the first year that I didn't feel compelled to excavate my feelings about mother's day on the blog. It's still a complicated and emotional day for me, but this year felt... okay.

I was talking to David last night about how before G was born, families with three kids always made me feel a pang of jealousy. I assumed it was obvious: if Eliza hadn't died, we would be a family with three kids (I mean... there's no way to know what would have happened if Eliza hadn't died, but you get my drift). Anytime I heard of someone being pregnant or having a baby, I felt a similar pang. A wistful feeling of "if only..."

Since G has been born, I feel none of that. If anything, that kid has given me a gift in knowing that I am so 100% completely uninterested in having another child ever.

I hope that doesn't come off as insensitive. My best friend now has two children after more than two rounds of IVF and a pretty harrowing pregnancy this last time around. She told me if they had frozen embryos and funds to pursue another transfer that she'd do it in a heartbeat. That made me ache, because she's an amazing mom and she makes delightful people.

I am so incredibly relieved to know that I will never, ever be pregnant again.

This is weird talk for Mother's Day reflections.

I should also say that it was such a delightful day. We didn't have to go anywhere--even to church, which I realize now has still felt pretty loaded. I woke up and did my yoga and had my coffee. The girls treated me to a "spa day" of manicure and pedicure and hair styling. It was the opposite of relaxing, but I loved it. David made a delicious brunch with omelettes and French toast and pineapple juice mimosas.

When G woke from her nap, we went to see Eliza's tree in Forest Park. They hadn't mowed around it so we couldn't really sit by it for pictures (the weeds were literally taller than Genevieve) but we took a photo several yards down the hill. It was a chilly, windy, cloudy day, so we didn't stay long a the park, but I was so glad that we went.

We came home, watched the original Mary Poppins, and I did a lot of reading, which was nice because I've kind of had a hard time reading since this whole pandemic started.

I'm anxious about school starting again in the fall. Honestly, I'm bracing myself for us not going back. It is hard to imagine that the university will be ready to open again, and that worries me as well. I've been asked to teach a class this fall that I'm really looking forward to, but it's likely to be online, which is certainly much less fun. And I'm just speculating here--no one has said anything for certain, but the uncertainty is stressful.

And what about G? Will she ever go back to her babysitter? Will we extend her time at her babysitter instead of enrolling her in preschool so that she's only exposed to two other kids instead of 20?

What will this summer look like? Will we go anywhere? Will there be another big spike? Are they discovering the virus is dangerous for kids, it just looks different than it does for adults? It's still deadly, even if hospitals aren't overwhelmed, so when will we feel safe again? Are we going to wait for a vaccine? How long will that be? Why is this virus so mysterious? When will there be enough testing?

I know everyone has these same questions but no one has clear answers and it's so frustrating, even as we are perfectly comfortable at home except for the general quarantine fatigue and of course the ongoing existential crisis.

Although my whole mother's day was great, the highlight was bedtime when I read a story to Coco and Zuzu and then Coco read aloud while I read my book... and Zuzu read her own book to herself! Unprompted with no nagging or encouragement from me! I ordered her a Secret Mermaids book from an Usborne book party and it is literally the first book she has read start to finish all on her own. I am beyond thrilled. Thrilled enough to order her the next three in the series (they end on a cliffhanger, so she asked for the next book).

Genevieve is a tornado, into absolutely everything she can get into. Pantry door left ajar? She's pulled out spices, intent on trying to twist off their lids. She actually succeeded in getting the lid off an extra-large bottle of vegetable oil and pouring it all over herself and the floor. Talk about a mess--have you ever tried to clean up a half gallon of oil on hardwood floors?

Last year, a friend of mine had a very active toddler. I laughed in astonishment when she told me that he liked to splash in the toilets. My kids would never!


Guess where we recently found Genevieve, elbow deep? And now she makes a beeline for it every time. We have to keep all bathroom doors closed.

She unspools toilet paper, rips book pages, ravages Lego sets, and scatters puzzle pieces. If she can reach it, she's wreaking havoc on it. I wonder if we would view her as such a wild child if we were going to work? I have to imagine that with less time at home and more out-of-the-house activities on weekends, we might never see the destruction she can accomplish in a remarkably short amount of time. So I am celebrating her wild ways, even though it's maddening that we can't seem to remember to keep the laundry room door shut and keep her out of the dog water!

More horrifying is the list of things I've had to dig out of her mouth--wads of toilet paper, a bitten off chunk of eraser, a fake plastic coin, a googly eye... I swear I'm constantly scanning the floor for choking hazards, but she is quick and has sharp eyes. Most horrifying of all was the other night after bath, when I watched to make sure she got down the stairs safely, then went to turn off the bathroom light. I heard her gag and came running to see what happened, but she started crying immediately. This was a relief, since I knew she was choking, and then I was gagging because I discovered she was holding a small dog turd in her hand and had evidently tasted it.

(Why was there a dog turd in the house? Because Cooper had inexplicably decided to climb the stairs and apparently the effort made him poop out a little turd, which he left behind on the bottom step.)

We googled poison control and "what to do if baby eats dog poop." It made me feel slightly better to know that babies actually eat human, dog, cat, and bird feces fairly regularly, according to all of the google results. But there's not much danger of toxicity and you just need to watch for vomiting and diarrhea in the next 30 minutes to 4 hours. I'm pretty sure she'd barely tasted it and hadn't actually swallowed any, and she had no adverse side effects, so I guess we dodged that bullet.

G's one year doctor appointment was Monday and it was also bizarre. We had to go in a different entrance to the doctor's building at the hospital and have our temperatures taken before we could enter. I had to wear a mask. I got a green sticker indicating that I didn't have a fever. There was no furniture or toys or books in the doctor's waiting room. We went right back to the exam room, where G careened around pushing the stroller and the doctor's stool, crawled everywhere, and ripped the paper on the exam bench to shreds.

She measured 31" and weighed 21lbs, which puts her in the 95th percentile for height (what?!) and the 75 percentile for weight (a giant among one year olds!). Her head measured in the 60th percentile. And her iron levels were perfect, even though I haven't been giving her iron supplements. She's growing beautifully and she even giggled when the doctor pushed gently on her tummy, which was adorable. She has a mouth full of chompers, so I really need to start brushing all six of her pearly white teeth.

Zuzu and Coco are both still hanging in there with remote learning. I've backed off Zuzu and she's basically choosing herself what gets done each day. I figure now is as good a time as any for her to have intrinsic motivation. Really I just can't stress out about second grade school work.

Coco misses her friends so much and tells me that she likes school at school better than school at home. Which, yeah. Me too. She's doing the art unit right now in kindergarten and she enjoys it once she gets going, but it's hard to get started.

Fortunately, they still love playing with each other and they are pretty good about being entertained by Legos and puzzles and dolls and characters. Last week we had a pretty ugly meltdown after way too much screen time and we took a screen time hiatus on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday except for viewing Mary Poppins. It was a much needed reset.

David has to go into the building next week to bag up student belongings and distribute them. He'll be there for a good chunk of every day. I'm asking my parents to come up because there's just no way I can manage three kids and work from home on my own. I know there are people who have no choice and may be unable to expand their quarantine crew to include grandparents and I just don't know how they are managing. We may all be in this together, but we're also seeing how uneven and inequitable the distribution of access, support, and supplies. It's distressing, especially as there is no end in sight.

Trying to end this on a positive note, though! So I'll just say how grateful I am that my tenth mother's day being a mom was the sweetest one yet, that my house is so busy and noisy and fun, that we still have some blessed quiet time after the girls are asleep each night, and that my friend Michelle and I did a no-contact book swap so that I have some new reading material.