day “who knows”

And what a strange summer it’s been. Hard to believe it’s almost over; there’s already a little chill in the air in the evenings.

A close family friend gave us free reign to swim at her camp, so we’ve spent many weekend hours by the lake. This has been a lifesaver in so many ways; getting my kids to play outside is like pulling teeth (“There are BUGS outside!”), but “just add water” and you have a recipe for hours of uninterrupted play.

With that in mind, we also built a “waterslide” down the hill of our back yard with leftover vinyl sheeting and the hose. It was a big hit! Add some shampoo to the mix and you have a perfect way to cool off on a warm day. Bonus: Kids didn’t complain about the bugs once.

We plan to keep the kids home from school this year; they’ll participate in remote learning following the regular curriculum, and we’ll supplement schoolwork with real-time educational activities (read: I’m always looking for an excuse to buy more LEGO).

They’re disappointed about not getting to go back in person, but they’re also not fans of extended masking, and they understand that we’re being extra cautious because we have several risk factors in our household. I’m so proud of how resilient and adaptable they’ve been throughout the last several months. We’ve had our fair share of tears and rough patches, but most of the time they are each others’ company and entertainment, with Tim and I as supporting cast and hug-givers. I’m grateful we’re getting all this “extra” time with the kids, while they still, y’know, like spending time us. 🙂

I struggle constantly with wondering if we’re being too strict, or too “safe”, given our state has an OK handle on the virus, and our county’s infection rates are so low. Then I remember that cold weather is coming, and that means more time indoors, and I imagine that will impact our infection rates for the worse.

So, we’re mostly home, and most days we’re handling it well. Creatively, my energy is pretty sunk between work and just…existing. That said, my Animal Crossing island looks amazing. It’s kind of fun decorating and styling and doing it with no thought of monetizing this; just the pleasure of doing something for myself while I rewatch Westworld (yes, I see the irony).

day ????

(I scheduled this to post 2 weeks ago, but I guess it didn’t?)

Wow, I guess it’s been a while! I’ve been meaning to write, but life is throwing a lot at us these days; I’ve started this post and abandoned it so many times. I have no wise words for the landscape of social and political unrest in the US, and yet, it’s at the forefront of my mind. I’m trying to spend more time listening and amplifying Black voices when I can, rather than adding mine to the mix.

We’re entering week 15 of stay at home, and every day has started to blend together. Our county relaxed the stay-at-home mandate to open non-essential businesses and restaurants a few weeks ago. Our case numbers are tiny overall, but Houlton has a lot of them, so we’re staying cautious.

We are leaving the house more frequently, more like twice a week instead of once, but we wear masks and sometimes gloves. The kids don’t accompany us to stores unless they can stay in the car or outside while we’re there. We’ve socialized a teensy bit with neighbors one on one, but most of the time, we’re at home, together. It’s hard not to feel a little crazy when I see folks going about their business as though the pandemic is over or politicizing the use of basic protective equipment.

On a personally disappointing note, Tim was laid off from his job. We planned for this, but it was still kind of a shock, and happened sooner than we’d hoped. He’s back to being a stay-at-home dad for the foreseeable future, since we don’t know what will happen with the kids’ school in the fall. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the extra padding in our budget, but we’re still incredibly fortunate. Things will work out.

There are bright spots! Ellie learned how to ride a bike this spring. She’s always been overly cautious and not physically adventurous, but a teacher gifted her a hand-me-down bike and she was determined to ride. It only took a day of coasting before she could balance and pedal, and I damn near cried for joy when she did.

(Weird parenting admission: I had no idea how much guilt I felt over the fact that she made it to 11 years old without knowing how to ride a bike until she figured it out.)

That motivated us to purchase an adult trike, and I’ve gotten into the habit of taking a ride down the road and back most days. If we can’t travel this summer, at least we can take in the local scenery.

The other Really Good Thing, and a huge relief, is the kids finished school strong this trimester, with honors and multiple awards for their academic achievements. We celebrated with ice cream sundaes — gourmet style, with alllllll the candy toppings and Ben n’ Jerry’s ice cream — because holy %$&! have the last two months been a slog. I’m looking forward to a few weeks without daily arguments about homework. Now we can argue about fun things — like who ate the last ice-cream sandwich, or chores.

It still hits me once in a while, how weird all of this is. I’m taking vacation next week; we’d originally planned to visit PEI, but that’s off the table due to border crossing restrictions (although we probably wouldn’t have gone even if the borders were open). We did explore some local swimming spots to take advantage of the warmer weather, and the kids have regular daily chores and activities, but “normal” life still feels very much out of reach. The future remains stubbornly up in the air.

day 44ish

We’re on week 6 of staying at home for all but the necessary things, which usually means one trip to town each week for groceries and take-out (gotta support the local restaurants!)

Going to town is so stressful now. It used to be I enjoyed the 40-minute round-trip drive, listening to an audiobook along the way and back. I enjoyed browsing the store, taking my time, playing PokĂ©mon Go when I’d finished running errands.

Now it’s a mad rush from the time I get into the car until the time the groceries are home and put away. Do I have my mask and gloves? Hand sanitizer? Do I have my list ready and sorted by aisle so I don’t have to linger any longer than necessary? Have I used the bathroom so I won’t have to use a public restroom?

There are tape lines on the floor telling us where to stand and how to navigate the aisles. Thankfully it’s never crowded — I don’t think I’ve ever seen our grocery store reach the maximum capacity — but I often have to go to two or more stores to get everything, which means more time in a mask, more time sweating in my nitrile gloves.

It’s all a small price to pay for safety, but it means I don’t like leaving the house for long, and when I come back, I’m usually drained from the stress. This pandemic has made me even more of a hermit than I already am. Impressive!

What’s bringing me joy these days? Animal Crossing. My kids, when they’re playing nicely together. Tim’s homemade chicken fettuccine alfredo (OMG so good). Making more time for exercise. The flexibility to take time off from work when I need to.

Life is more stressful in some respects, but also slower in a good way. (I recognize that a lot of this is the result of privilege.)

I’m contemplating what things I want to bring into the New Normal, and what things I’m comfortable leaving behind. If something doesn’t change as a result of this upheaval, is it all for naught? I kinda think so. This feels like a warning siren, a wake-up call, an opportunity. I’m just not sure what to do with it yet…

easter 2020

The big bunny was cleared by the state as an “essential employee”, so we had a pretty great Easter Sunday with our immediate family. The kids were spoiled and there’s plenty of chocolate to show for it. The bunny might have placed a bulk order with Russell Stover so we have extra to last us the summer. And the bunny’s mom found a bunch of Easter heirlooms in storage, so those got passed down to the kids.

day 27ish

As of last week, our county confirmed its first case of COVID-19, and as an added bonus, it was at our local hospital. The state is officially locked down, and the kids are remote for the rest of the school year.

Most of the time I’m on an even keel, but then something small will trigger a wave of feels. Usually it’s related to watching or reading the news, but you never know. The other day, the school dropped off all the kids’ gear; emptied their desks and lockers and sent it all home. That was a hard morning for all of us.

The weather has been ideal for walking–sunny, dry, nice temps for this time of year–but last night it snowed a foot. Not unexpected for northern Maine in April, but not welcome, either.

Since we know the kids aren’t going back to school, we’re trying to buckle down and get a slightly more defined routine in place. It requires a bit more wrangling from us, but I think it’s helping them to have a bit more structure without going overboard. The kids have Zoom socialization sessions with their classes coming up, and I think that’s going to help even more.

Ellie is unimpressed with math homework.

I was trying to keep up with art stuff at the start of social distancing but haven’t been in the mood lately. Animal Crossing is providing a mindless creative outlet and escape from the real world. I’m taking a couple vacation days after Easter weekend just to chill and probably catch up on housework. Or maybe not. At this point, I try not to make plans beyond the next few hours, because I never know how I’m going to feel!

day by day

We’ve settled into something like a routine–routine lite(tm), if you will.

Family time is all the time!

The kids are spending a lot more time sleeping in our bedroom; I wake up to elbows and knees I’m my side and a kid on the floor more often than not. So we usually wake up as a family around 7 or 7:30, and Tim heads downstairs to start coffee (my hero). We take care of the dog and get breakfast, sitting around the table and talking about our plans for the day.

Don’t worry, it gets much less wholesome and routine-like as the day goes on.

The kids get into their homework (much whining and fussing ensues, even from Ellie, our resident geek and academic superstar) while Tim and I assist, and check in with work-work. They’ll spend a little time with worksheets or reading or online tests. We’re not pushing the schoolwork hard, to be honest. We’re in close quarters and no one wants to fight, so we’ve set a rule that they need to do a bit of homework before screen time–how much they do is mostly up to them. We also set aside a couple chores they need to complete during the day, and remind (ie. nag) them to take screen breaks to play together, call friends, or read.

This dog is a social distancing failure.

Once the homework is done, the kids usually hang out with Animal Crossing or their iPads, and we settle in to try to get some uninterrupted work time. This isn’t always possible; the dog is needier than usual (WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME DEMON HOUND), the kids get restless, and once a week I make time to run errands.

My mom made masks. ❤️

Tim takes a break for lunch while I usually work through it (see the post about me being terrible at working from home, don’t be like me). We leave the kids to forage for their own food during the day–no, we don’t literally send them out into the yard, that would be cruel! Besides, it’s way too early in the growing season to get anything of nutritional value, we won’t lock them outside until at least June. Until then, they’re eating a lot of cereal, chicken nuggets, and mini oranges–so, all the major food groups.

I usually get a second “productive” chunk of time during the afternoon; by then, the dog has settled down and the kids do chores or play. We might take a break to walk with my mom if the weather cooperates. Thankfully the kids are good at keeping themselves entertained, although sometimes we have rough days where snuggles are required, and I usually oblige because my job is more flexible.

Pretending it’s not freezing cold outside and failing.

I try to wrap things up at work around 5, but sometimes it’s 3 or 4 or 6, or whenever I can’t get the kids to stop crawling on me. Tim logs off around then, too, and he usually makes dinner. Even if it’s a “fend for yourself” night, we try to eat our last meal of the day together. You’d think living in the same house all day wouldn’t produce much in the way of news or conversation, but Gwen has a vivid imagination and a lot to say. We are not in danger of suffering from quiet in this household.

After that we’ll settle into the living room to play more Animal Crossing (we spent what would have been the kids’ summer camp money on Nintendo Switches for all, because why not?) or watch TV or play a game. We all head to bed around 9 (bedtime has gotten more relaxed since the kids don’t have to wake up early)–I always intend to stay up late to have some “me time” but that rarely happens. Pandemic life is exhausting.

OMG takeout! The kids weren’t impressed.

The most exciting part of the week is take-out night, where we’ll order food from a local restaurant and pick it up on the way home from our weekly grocery run. We’ll rent a movie and make popcorn to make it extra special.

And that’s that. My grief at the things we can’t do has mostly subsided in lieu of appreciation for our collective health and privilege. I’m thankful for the workers who keep the world’s lights on while the rest of us hole up in our homes and wait for the storm to pass. This is hard, but we have so much to be grateful for.

tp humor

A joke Gwen wrote all by herself (and yes, I am the proudest parent ever):

“How did the kid poop become an adult poop?”

“It went through poop-erty!”

I think it’s starting to hit the kids that they’re not going back to school soon. Gwen this morning, while doing one of her worksheets: “I thought this was going to be fun, but I don’t like it any more.”

Right there with ya, kid.

We’re distracting ourselves with Animal Crossing now. I’m trying to sketch a little every day, even though I’m not really feeling it. We’ve made a commitment to once-a-week takeout from local places, at least while that’s still feasible, and “movie night” is any night we feel like watching a movie. Distraction, distraction, distraction.

The mental exhaustion is taking its toll. I lean hard on escapism and naps, my favorite depressive coping strategies (although I wouldn’t qualify myself as “depressed” right now). I think I’ve accepted the grief, and now I’m feeling pre-survivor’s guilt; I’m just waiting for people to die, even though we have it relatively good here. My imagination gets the better of me when I read about accounts of young, healthy folks succumbing to COVID-19, though.

So I set up a phone appointment with my therapist and I’m looking forward to that. I’m trying to focus on the good things; the weather is great, so we’ve been out for regular walks. Spring is springing earlier than usual. We have plenty of food. We have steady income and understanding employers. I managed to find yeast at our local co-op so I can finally make bread. Shortages appear to be slowing down. I can afford to donate to those less fortunate than us. Gratitude is the bright spot.

Meanwhile, Tim brought home what he referred to as “the white gold” and I immediately knew he meant toilet paper. We live in weird times.

before and after

This virus has divided time into two segments for me; Before and After. I’m mostly fine day to day; the anxiety has settled to a low hum (or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it), but then I’ll see a commercial or a photo that depicts something from before, and I’ll get sad. And sometimes the sads drop in for no discernible reason at all.

My dog does not get “social distancing”

I’m waiting for Maine to institute a shelter-in-place order; I think we’ll see one soon. I don’t think it would change much, though. We already practice social distancing by virtue of living in the country, so we’re used to hunkering down, especially during the cold months. My goal is to keep our trips to town to once a week, but keeping these kids in food is no joke. I should buy stock in chicken nuggets and ketchup.

This weekend I took them with me on a grocery run so they could get outside and play at the library park (not a playground, just a big open space). It was pretty desolate for a Saturday afternoon; there were a few people out for walks, but many local businesses have already closed their doors to the public.

The kids stayed in the car while I shopped (I checked three stores, and I still couldn’t find any yeast) and picked up a neighbor’s prescription at the pharmacy. We celebrated our first official week of isolation by ordering take-out from The Vault and renting The Addams Family.

Neither does Stitch.

We’ve had a couple tough conversations with the kids about what might happen in the coming weeks; namely, they should be prepared not to go back to school or see their friends any time soon, that it’s unlikely we’ll be taking that trip to PEI this summer, their summer camps probably won’t be open (even if they are, I don’t feel comfortable sending them), and even Disney at Christmas is unlikely. It’s a careful balance, trying to give them age-appropriate information without scaring them, but still conveying the seriousness of the situation, and leaving space for all the feelings. What a time to grow up!

We’re saving a lot of money this way, at least. No traveling to Bangor to shop at Target, no vacation budgeting, no visiting family on the coast, eating at home almost exclusively, no movie theaters or date nights. At this rate, we’ll pay off the majority of our debts by the end of the year. Silver linings!