My kids will always remember this as the year I put a “Fuck or Treat” sign on our front porch. 🙄🤣 “Help yourself!”
It was nice to have Halloween on a Saturday for once. We made and decorated cupcakes, and Tim set up a candy scavenger hunt in lieu of trick or treating.
The kids dressed up, but I forgot to take photos. They raided our costume collection and made do with some old robes to become an imp (Gwen) and a devil (Ellie). After the festivities, we settled in to play Animal Crossing and watch Beetlegeuse.
And now it’s November, and the election is upon us. It’s been a wild few months, and I’m ready for the year to end. Work is busier than usual, school is A Lot, and political anxiety is a thing. The holidays are coming up, and while it will be nice to have a break, I’m missing my non-immediate family and wishing we could see them over more than a Zoom call.
And then there’s the pandemic, always looming. Cases are on the rise again. We continue to do our part by going out as little as possible and masking up when we do. The kids are managing remote learning OK, although it’s not their favorite thing, it’s definitely more structured than it was last spring. It’s put a lot of pressure on Tim, but we’re lucky he’s able to focus primarily on school; I don’t know how we’d manage if he had a full-time job, too.
I signed off Twitter and Facebook for a bit, mostly because they’re a time-suck, partly because politics are draining enough without having to-the-second updates about what idiotic thing our president has said, and partly because I watched The Social Dilemma and I’m tired of being a slave to the almighty notification bell. I check in once a week to see if anyone has messaged me, and I’m still posting to Instagram, but I’ve noticed my work days are much more productive. (The irony of my working for a social media company is not lost on me.)
Apparently it’s been over two months since I posted anything, so here’s a gallery of goings-on since September.
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.
We’ve settled into something like a routine–routine lite(tm), if you will.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
So, COVID-19 real talk. I’m going to make a point of documenting our lives in a bit more detail using this blog, because one day we’ll look back at this series of events and marvel at what a strange time it was.
They closed the kids’ school this week, along with many others in the state. Initially they were slated to reopen in two weeks, but then the governor changed that to “indefinitely”, which leads me to believe kids across the nation are getting the world’s longest summer break, starting now.
Yesterday I picked up their work packets outside the elementary school; I drove up, and Ellie’s gifted/talented teacher handed me her work through the passenger window. She said she was grateful I hadn’t brought Ellie or she might have cried. You can tell their teachers miss them, but they’ve done an amazing job of putting together a curriculum at the last minute.
I also picked up a couple prescriptions for our pets, having paid over the phone so I never had to get out of the car. Weird.
The grocery store was another story; many Hannaford locations in our state offer curbside pickup, but ours isn’t one of them. I’ve never seen the shelves so empty. The run on paper goods like toilet paper is probably the most strange (y’all gonna eat toilet paper when things get bad?), but bread, frozen veggies, and canned goods were picked over, too. I watched a woman pile at least forty bags of frozen vegetables onto the checkout conveyor. We got ahead of the rush by stocking up last week, so I only needed to pick up a few things; I’d hoped to find a sense of normalcy by getting out of the house, but I left the store feeling more disconcerted than ever.
Everything else–dance lessons, counseling, physical therapy, school board meetings, etc.–is cancelled. Restaurants and bars have been ordered to close their dining rooms. We’re only going out to shop for groceries and other necessities. The atmosphere in town is weird, and maybe it’s because we just watched Contagion, but I can imagine society slowly devolving as this drags on. I’m not afraid of the virus, I’m afraid of people’s fear, and the American every-man-for-himself attitude. I hear gun sales are on the rise nationwide.
Thankfully the weather has cooperated and we’ve been able to get out for walks up and down the road. We’re also baking, and playing video games, and watching TV, and reading books. It all feels a bit perfunctory under the circumstances, but we’re trying to keep things as light and normal for the kids as possible.
Throughout all this, our jobs haven’t changed much; people need the internet more than ever, and we already work from home. The mechanics are the same, but the constant anxiety makes it hard to focus. Automattic (as always) encourages us to take the time we need to rest up, and I did take last-minute AFK on Tuesday because I couldn’t juggle the kids and everything else going on in my head. But I don’t want to take too much time because work can be a nice distraction when things feel heavy, and because everyone is experiencing some variation of this slow-moving disaster.
I have a sinking feeling things are going to get worse over the coming weeks and months, as the number of cases in the US continues to rise and we realize we reacted too late. What a house of cards our nation is built on, that one little virus could take so many lives and livelihoods.