The coronavirus diaries, Day…who even knows anymore

Among my FB memories the other day was a post about coming out here — an hour’s drive from my old apartment — to have dinner with my parents, even though gas was nearly $4 a gallon. I remember those days. I very nearly bought a moped to ride to work because gas prices were so high. After picking up the groceries this week, R filled up my tank; with Kroger Plus card points, he says it came out to around 50 cents a gallon. Years ago I was on the road daily, and often put gas on a credit card so I could also afford food. Now we go nowhere, and gas is cheaper than it was when I was in high school.

I have reached the stage in quarantine/menopause/life where I pull out pajama pants that fit me two years ago and marvel that my butt was ever that small. Yet I stubbornly hang on to boxes of even smaller clothes that I’m going to fit back into someday, I swear. Whether those clothes will still be in style by that point is another matter entirely.

Recently I provided masked tech support to my mother, who needed help installing and setting up Zoom because her infectious disease doctor wants to conduct her checkup virtually. (But we’re opening up everything else. Makes sense.) My mother’s hair is longer than I ever remember seeing it; when I was 6 months old, she had her nearly waist-length hair cut short, and she’s worn the same hairstyle ever since. I think the longer hair looks good. Softer.

Speaking of hair, I trimmed my son’s a few weeks ago. Mostly I was just imitating what I saw his hairdresser do last time, but I think it turned out okay. I read some articles about it after the fact, and I did everything I was supposed to; it’s just that he is 5, and wiggly. The other day I asked if he would like a trim, as it’s getting in his eyes again. “Longer is better,” he told me.

It is summer. Not according to the calendar, or the stars, but because the weather says it is. If you’re trying to neatly divide the calendar into four seasons, May is firmly in Spring territory, but Southern summers are famous for overstepping their bounds. We went from weeks of gorgeous, unseasonably cool days to muggy, sweltering (swuggy? meltering?) early summer in the space of a weekend. In response to the heat, we got the sprinkler out Memorial Day — my suggestion, as the splash pad did not open this year because of the coronavirus and the kids were lamenting that we did not buy the house with the pool. (Truth: after seeing how our fish tank looks week to week, I refused to buy a house with a pool.) Then I saw a rash of IG posts from people who’ve recently purchased above-ground pools, including one with a pop-up canopy over part of the pool. Which, if you are a freckly, sunburn-prone person, is brilliant. So now I’m considering buying an above-ground pool and a canopy. Shh…don’t tell the kids.

“Mama, there’s a spider!” my son said, for the third time that day. We had pest control spray quarterly at our old house, because otherwise we’d have been overrun by the Aragog-sized wolf spiders that summered in the woods fringing the backyard but preferred to winter indoors. After we moved here, I waited a few months to determine whether we’d resume pest control, but since the spiders I saw were few and small, I decided against it. We had the house treated for termites shortly after we moved in, so it’s possible that was the reason for the lack of insects; this year it’s spiders a-go-go around here. I’m not crazy about them either, and usually I rescue my son from them, but Mama’s got things to do. “Get it yourself!” I reply, “Or ask Anya to!” Anya sucked up the offending arachnids(!), then told me it was not one spider, but two — and one was eating the other. Not sorry I missed that.

I’m ending the week in a state of mental and physical exhaustion. The pandemic, of course, colors everything. And then there’s George Floyd, the latest in a too-long list of infuriating assaults on African Americans. Brian Sims’ video about the PA House Republicans was confirmation that things can indeed get worse, and do, and are. I’ve recently discovered Hannah Gadsby, and I love her but damn did she stir up some bad memories. Homeschooling, even on the lighter schedule I came up with for this summer, has been a struggle, and I find myself alternating between feeling that I am doing ok and wondering how I can suck at it so badly…sometimes several times within the same 5-minute period. I keep trying to fill my cup, but some days it drains faster than I can fill it. Which is so not the note I was aiming for with this post, but I am also aiming for an authentic record of this time.

This time sucks.

It is not devoid of hope, however, so I will close with this photo of my son, which I snapped just after he handed me a dandelion seed — a wishing flower seed, he called it. So I could plant it and grow more wishes. I could do with a wishing garden, and more smiles like this.

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Musical numbers

How to make counting fun? Got me. I can tell you how to make it boring, though: Flash cards every day. My kids hate flash cards. I hate flash cards. Flash cards are not fun.

Today I tried a different tactic: I pulled out the toy abacus, which features fruit-shaped beads in fun colors, and we took turns counting the rows. After we counted all the rows left to right, I counted for him right to left, alternating counting forward and backward, all while introducing errors to see if he’d catch them.

He has all but 7 and 10 down; it’s 1 2 3 4 5 6 11 8 9 16. Doesn’t matter which direction you count. Seven and ten are nowhere to be found.

I decided to test a theory. From the time I was a kid, I would get the counting song from Sesame Street stuck in my head at random moments: One two three FOUR five six SEVEN eight NINE ten ELEVEN TWELVE. To this day, I hear it when I count, and have to keep counting to 12 or I feel weird. I’ve sung it to both of my kids since they were babies. Anya doesn’t seem to retain musical cues, but Kai does. So I sang it while counting the next row of beads — except I stopped at 10, though it killed me to do so, because there are only 10 beads.

After a beat, he finished for us: “Eleven twelbe.”

Yes! Time to introduce a silly song.

One little, two little, three little nanas.
Four little, five little, six little, nanas.
Seven little, eight little, nine little nanas.
Ten little rotten nanas.

(This is not as random as it sounds. I spent the weekend trying to get the kids to finish the increasingly overripe bananas before they went moldy. I detest the smell of bananas — overripe ones doubly so.)

“Not rotten!” he said. “Those nanas are good!” So I knew I had his attention.

Later on, I heard him singing: “One little, two little, three little crackers…” So the cue stuck. Now to see if it helps.

On 46

Birthday weekend is drawing to a close — though the celebration is not over, as I do not have all my presents. (I do so love an extended birthday, and am looking forward to all upcoming presents, both those I chose for myself and those that will be a surprise.) I was worried about the weather for my birthday, as the weekend was hot, humid, and rainy. However, Monday was shockingly beautiful for a mid-May day in the mid-South. (Say that three times fast.) The high was 73(!); I found myself swapping capris for full-length leggings in the afternoon.

My daughter set out to give me a spa day Saturday, but ended up settling for filing and buffing my toenails because I don’t really speak spa. I did, however, splurge and order myself a tube of my favorite face mask, so we’ll do a better spa day when it gets here. I may even get around to covering my roots.

Kai has been begging for s’mores, so I bought graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. I even bought myself GF/dairy-free versions and indulged in one. Because I am stubborn, I also picked up a GF cheese pizza to test whether I can eat dairy again. I cannot.

The kids and their dad baked me a cake (Simple Truth GF chocolate cake mix is now my go-to cake; it’s seriously the best mix cake, GF or otherwise, I’ve eaten in my life), frosted it, decorated it, then set it on fire.

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They lit them all. By some miracle, the smoke alarm did not go off.

After we extinguished the flames, we enjoyed it with homemade vegan almond chocolate chip ice cream. Which was also good.

We had a family game day, playing the Choose Your Own Adventure game we gave my husband for his birthday. The title was a bit…off putting. But it was hilarious, and there are enough plot variables that we’ll get plenty of replay out of it.

My children gave me handmade gifts, and my husband surprised me with a pack of Stephen King movies that includes the one I’ve been questing for: The Stand. Time to indoctrinate the littles! My parents gave me a new Fitbit (the screen on my old one cracked) and a handpainted vase that was among Mom’s family heirlooms in the garage. And I gave me some cute melamine dishes and a flamingo pitcher to pretty up our patio meals, as we’re eating so many of them.

My parents stopped by for a (masked) visit before dinner. I got to hug them. The kids got cuddles. Hurray for masks! We chatted for a bit on the patio, then sent them home with cake. Afterwards, we went for a walk. The weather was absolutely perfect — not hot, not cold, abundant sunshine and a cool breeze. It felt more like an Illinois May than a Tennessee May.

So, all in all, a great birthday.

Back when 43 Things was still around, I used to re-evaluate my goals around my birthday. I looked on it as a chance to correct course if I’d strayed since New Year’s. (I always had.) 43t still exists in my heart, so here are the areas I am hoping to improve upon in the coming year:

  1. Exercise. For so many reasons: My thighs are expanding unchecked. My ankle, which hasn’t troubled me in years, is beginning to ache. I puff when I have to go uppastairs, as Kai calls it. I joined a gym this year, and am for the moment still paying membership, but I’m not sure when I will feel safe going back there. Time to formulate Plan B. (C? D? Z?)
  2. Diet. Complete the reintroduction phase and come up with a meal plan. Eating every two hours is not a meal plan. Also, popcorn is not a food group. Without a proper diet, the exercise will accomplish nothing.
  3. Learning. Not just the kids’ — mine. I need to take a crash course in early childhood ed in case I end up homeschooling the kids next year (which is looking very likely). I need to figure out how to use my sewing machine so I can sew masks, among other things. I need to learn how to cook staple foods that fit my crazy diet so the weekly shopping doesn’t involve hitting 5 different stores. I need to figure out this gardening thing. I need to pick up a few extra skills so I can pivot my career if need be. And I need to learn because I like learning, damn it.

There are smaller projects I want to work on as well, but these three main areas will occupy my attention and energy for the next few months.

 

Things you don’t learn in school

We learned that there is a wrong way to make fizzy juice using the Sodastream. But it still tastes delicious. And the kitchen is clean now. (Pro tip: You make the water fizzy, then add concentrated juice. Do not fizz up the juice. The juice is unforgiving. And sticky.)

We learned that some ladybugs have no spots. I also learned that they’re not true ladybugs, but the kids don’t care about that.

We learned that you can make potato chips in the microwave, but it’s (probably) more trouble than it’s worth.

We learned many, many things on Netflix’s Absurd Planet…not all of which I really wanted to know. Like the birds who impale their prey on a tree branch so they can go back for leftovers. Still, the show is entertaining. I just periodically have to employ my Walking Dead hand.

We learned that my kids will indeed work for edutainment time, so I am using education apps as a bargaining tool to get them to do homework. They ask to do homework now. Teachers, take note.

We learned (ok, I learned) that having the knowledge and explaining the knowledge in a way that a child can understand are not the same thing. At all. On a related note, I have enormous empathy for all the boring teachers I’ve endured in my life. You are my people.

I also learned that some of the “new math” is really freaking cool, and beats the heck out of the rote memorization methods used back in the 1900s. (Which, by the way, is how my kid refers to my youth.)

I am working on some educational projects. (In my mind, because work has been one long Diet Coke Mentos-like tidal wave lately.) Posts on those to come once I have the chance to implement them. But first: Birthday. This one’s the one that tips me over the hill and on the downhill slide to 50. Good times.

The hope in Truley’s raisins

I grew up hearing how my great-grandmother, Trula Belle — Truley — used to take to her bed at the first sign of sniffles and give her final farewells to her children. My mother and I used to chuckle about these stories. What a hypochondriac, we thought.

Truley was a survivor of the 1918-1919 flu epidemic.

My grandfather was born the following year. She was in the early days of her pregnancy while the epidemic was winding down. I cannot imagine the terror she must have felt.

Her worst fears, thankfully, never came to pass. She raised three boys, outlived her first husband, and died peacefully in her 90s. She was a doting grandmother who always had gum for my mom and her brothers. She also made sure she had treats for me, her great-grandchild; since gum wasn’t exactly plentiful in the nursing home, I’m told she used to save boxes of raisins from her food tray for me. I wonder how that felt — laying in a stock of treats for her great-grandchild, when she never expected to live to see her own kids raised.

What brought all this to mind was reading this great interview with a scholar who wrote a book about the impact the 1918-1919 flu epidemic had on the survivors through an analysis of literature. After I finished reading the interview, I reread The Waste Land. Which is saying something, because I despised T.S. Eliot in school. While I was studying his works, I was also dealing with my own traumas and struggling under the weight of a crushing depression, and he didn’t help matters one bit. I believe that was the same year I studied Shakespeare’s tragedies, and I say with all seriousness that it is a wonder I made it out alive.

I’m still not an Eliot fan, but the first stanza of The Waste Land, viewed through the lens of a global pandemic in the midst of a otherwise gorgeous spring, takes on a new, tragic weight:

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

My Facebook memories these days are full of gardens and family. My mother cradling a pudgy Kai. My dad scooping Anya up in a bear hug. As April gives way to May, my past posts turn to Mother’s Day. My birthday. Morning walks among fields of flowers. Picnics on sunny hills in My Big Back Yard. I cry as I look at these reminders, because this year my fledgling lilacs and my Blue Girl roses perfume my yard, and the weather has been unusually cool and beautiful. What I wouldn’t give to sip tea on my patio with my parents, or sit on the swings with my mother in the botanic garden while the kids check out the chicken coop.

In another life, we’d have spent every weekend, and probably more than a few weekdays, visiting gardens and parks and sharing patio picnics with Mimi. In this life, my kids and my parents video chat with each other’s eyebrows. I sit on my patio alone, drinking in my gorgeous flowers and my pathetic victory garden and hoping that next year will offer another chance at…everything.

Two passages from that interview particularly resonate with me:

Imagine killing somebody in a war, where you meant to do it … that’s its own horrible thing to confront, but this, where you can’t be sure … where you didn’t want that to happen, and you’ll never quite know if it did or not … that makes it very difficult to cope with or address. We’re all feeling it, right now, in an anticipatory way: What if I went to see my older mother, and I gave her this virus without meaning to? What if I went to the grocery store to get something I don’t totally need, but would like to have, and I pass this to somebody?

My mother’s illness has forever changed how I view family time — not just the holidays and birthdays, but sunny Saturday mornings and quiet Thursday evenings. What I once considered mildly boring, or at least unproductive, feels precious now, and I have come to enjoy doing nothing with my parents. This pandemic, though, has robbed us even of watching the kids blow bubbles on the front lawn from Mom’s porch swing. Mom had such happy memories of swinging with her grandmother, and was so looking forward to making memories of her own with my kids. I wonder if we will ever do that again. Just sit in the sunshine.

As states, mine included, begin to reopen, the kids and I remain home. We are lucky; we can. We are merely mildly inconvenienced. Going out still feels risky. I want to see better numbers. Declining numbers. I want assurance that my kids will be safe before I send them to camp, to school. Before we deal with crowds at the grocery store, at the park, at parades and fireworks and movies and museums. But I wonder if I will ever truly feel safe again. When will I feel safe hugging my mother — wrap my arms around her illness-ravaged body and feel relatively assured that I am not inadvertently killing her? Is there a threshold for that? When will I feel safe letting my kids go on sleepovers? When will I feel safe eating in a restaurant, sleeping in a hotel, visiting an amusement park? When will I feel safe taking my kids out for ice cream?

The other passage that resonates for me is this:

Reading letters from survivors of the flu pandemic, one of the things that strikes me over and over again, that’s so moving, is that almost every one of them says, “I never forgot; I never forgot; I never forgot.” [Researching the book], I interviewed one 105-year-old woman who had the flu in Richmond, when she was 8. And in my cheery way, I said something like “Why do you think people forgot the flu?” And she looked at me like I was crazy. “We didn’t forget! We didn’t ignore it! We didn’t forget.” She’s 105, right? And she was like, “It never faded—not for us.”

How did my great-grandmother do it? How did she go on? How did she muster up the courage to go to crowded public places once the pandemic had passed? How did she bring herself to date again after her husband died? How did she cope when her children got sick? I was four when she died, so I will never be able to ask her. But she did go on, for 60 years after that horrible year.

I told my daughter recently that the reason I hated history as a child was because I learned it wrong. I learned (okay, memorized, regurgitated, and forgot) dates and names and battles. That’s not history. History is stories. History and literature are two sides of the same coin: Historical stories recount true events, and literature tells imagined ones. I feel bad now for ever thinking my undergraduate literature degree useless; as I age, I am finding history and literature far more important than many so-called practical topics. Both teach us lessons about life. They teach us how to live. Life’s a lot different now than it was during that flu epidemic 100 years ago, but so much remains the same. Our technology may make the isolation easier to cope with, but we still have to figure out how to keep on living, both now and after. Once the danger has passed.

The danger will pass. My great-grandmother taught me that. But it will forever change us; she taught me that, too.

I sincerely hope I live to give my grandchildren — great-grandchildren, even! — small treats. I see now the amount of hope required for those small gestures, the strength it took to believe, after all she’d lived through, that she would indeed see me again. No gesture imbued with that much faith could ever be considered small.

Mary Poppins was right

hurdleThis week brought me over a major homeschooling hurdle — not gracefully, but I cleared the sucker.

Part of Kai’s kindergarten prereqs are to be able to write his full name and address. Both of which are long. (Sorry, baby.) I started small, with practice sheets that allow him to trace one letter at a time, one number at a time — not the school-provided sheets that have him tracing the entire alphabet and numbers 1-20. I wanted to ease the boy into writing, as he’s not yet comfortable even coloring.

As days turned into weeks, I noticed a pattern: He would happily write his numbers, but not his letters. I could get him to practice writing letters on a magnetic board, or a whiteboard, but not on his worksheets. The more he resisted, the more frustrated I became. The more I vied for his attention and effort, the more he dug in. Finally, after a meltdown that left us all exhausted and teary, it occurred to me to ask him why.

“Too many,” he said. “It’s just too much, Mama.”

I’ve tried to keep his daily lessons brief: One new letter, one number, and one sight word each day, plus one “fun” sheet that reinforces a kindergarten skill like patterns or rhyming. So I didn’t think I was overloading him in terms of information. But the letter worksheets I was using have a line of capital letters to trace, a line of lowercase letters to trace, plus three blank lines to try writing the letters without help. The number sheets have just 9 outlines to trace. Big ones.

“Would it be better if I found letter worksheets with less to trace?” I asked.

“YES!”

So I did. The next day we finished his schoolwork by 10 a.m., compared with 7:30 the evening before.

It’s been such a relief to me to figure out the issue with writing his letters. He loves words, and even enjoys working on his sight words — probably, I see now, because I’ve made it quick and fun. Each day I introduce one new word, and give him cues (visual, if possible) to help him recall it. Nothing fancy — for his first word, look, I sketched something similar to this on his chalkboard.

lookIf I can’t come up with a visual, I help him sound it out (Ih-ttt — It) or use it in a short sentence (Anya said). Then we review all previous daily words using small, Kai-sized flash cards I printed out on card stock, and I high-five him each time he remembers one. It takes maybe 2 minutes each day.

People learn better when the lesson is delivered in small, easily digestible segments, and they learn faster when the lesson is fun. I’ve known this for years. But in my panic to seamlessly add homeschooling to my other spinning plates, I reverted to the sort of dry, regimented authoritarian that I resisted with all my being as a student, with similar end results.

Mary was right. Just a spoonful of sugar makes the alphabet go down. I need to watch that movie again.

Later

My son, while sitting on my lap getting his morning snuggles, pointed out the window. “Wish!” he cried. “Wish flower!” I looked toward where he was pointing and saw a dandelion gone to seed.

“Can I blow it?” he asked. I was in the middle of my morning deadlines, so I told him later. Later, the seeds were gone. The wind took his wish.

I told the kids that we would eat lunch outside, but by lunchtime the neighbor’s landscapers were out there mowing and weed eating, and Anya was already down with her allergies. Plus, I’d just butted heads with her brother. I didn’t want lunch at all, and going outside was no longer an option. Later, I told her. Later, she didn’t feel well enough to go outside. Then the rain moved in and the temperature dropped, taking lunch outside off the table for a day or so.

Kai begged me to hold him as I was rushing to complete a design project before we went to pick up our grocery order.  I can hold him and edit, and sometimes I can hold him while I write, but graphic design requires pixel-level perfection — which is incompatible with squirmy preschoolers. Later, I told him. I will hold you later. Except later he was asleep (he passed out 5 minutes after we hopped in the car), and when we got home there were groceries to put away and dinner to fix and an achy, crabby girl to take care of.

I did get my later snuggles, as he curled into me at bedtime and his sister tangled her little feet with mine. But I am aware, now more than ever, that there are a finite amount of laters left. I need to be careful how I spend them.

 

 

Homeschooling chronicles: Music appreciation

Anya’s school sent out a suggested calendar of Related Arts activities, and one of them was to listen to a song and talk about how it makes you feel. Anya wasn’t interested — she opted to draw a still life of our fruit bowl — but Kai was into the idea. I decided to up the ante by picking the song for him; I went with Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but his response blew me away.

 

First movement:

It makes me feel sad. I kind of like it.

I think Baytopen was sad when he wrote this.

Everybody likes sad songs. I like sad songs.

I would listen to this outside. Alone. In the evening.

I think Baytopen writes my kind of songs. What else he got?

 

Second movement:

This too loud. Next.

 

Third movement: 

I like it, but it’s not sad enough. Go back to the sad one.

 

After that, I let him roam my Spotify listening to whatever caught his fancy. Had to wrestle my phone away from him half an hour later. I’m thinking we should have weekly music appreciation sessions. It would be wonderful to share my love of music with at least one of my kids.

Focusing on the road at my feet

Taking Friday off was a good decision. It was almost like a holiday — that’s how infrequently we are all home, and not working, at the same time. We had lunch on the patio, and the kids tried to fly mini kites. Only our backyard wasn’t really big enough for that. So we grabbed the real kites and went to the local park, which has plenty of wide-open spaces for such activities.

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After we finished with the kites, we explored the greenline, which I’d only seen on online maps. It’s really nice, and I hope they finish it soon. We arrived home ravenous, and had dinner a la air fryer (expect some air fryer recipes soon, as my BFF and I keep giving each other ideas for foods to try in it) because we were too impatient to wait on the oven. Bedtime came early, and we all slept long and hard.

I meant to clean Saturday, but my mother advised I wait; Sunday would be rainy, she said, so best take advantage of the sunshine. It was a cool day, with an abundance of brilliant sunshine. We had dinner on the patio: homemade soup plus my daughter’s first attempt at bread machine bread (yes, I indulged — one tiny slice…okay, two), with homemade strawberry shortcake for dessert. (No recipe yet; I am underwhelmed by the shortcake. The strawberries were divine, though.)

Sunday was, as promised, rainy and chilly. I found myself tired and out of sorts, and finally abandoned all hope of productivity and allowed myself to spend the day lounging around eating junk food and napping. My daughter was convinced I was ill, so infrequently does she see me nap; she took my temperature twice, just to be sure. To be honest, I didn’t, and don’t, feel great; however, I think the culprit is allergies, as the trees have been doing their spring thing quite vigorously this year. And we did spend the better part of two days outside.

It was hard to go back to work. Part of the reason why I rarely take days off is that it is so much easier to keep momentum when I stick to a routine. But it was also good for me to take a break from working, cleaning, nagging, managing, upholding, adhering and just be.

I struggle to bring my eyes away from the road ahead and focus on the road that’s immediately before me. I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t this way; even as a child, I was looking 5, 10, 15 years into the future. Usually focusing on the future brings me comfort. (To paraphrase Jonathan Tropper, you can have a hundred futures, but only one past.) These days, however, focusing on the future gives me cold chills and panic attacks. But by focusing on a flawless sunny afternoon, a morning cuddle from my baby girl, a squeezy hug and a smacking kiss from a grinning, freckled boy, I can pole vault over the panic moments until I get to the other side.

Wherever that might be.

Spring hygge

I know hygge is thought of as more of a fall/winter thing, and I also know that its moment has largely passed. But I need some hygge right now.

As I’ve mentioned, my morning job involves reading and writing about the news. Starting at 4:30 each weekday morning, I sift through headlines and news aggregators, trying to find relevant stories that aren’t too depressing. But it’s mostly depressing news these days, so by 8:30 a.m. — the time when many people are just sitting down to work — I’ve knocked out half a standard work day, have cried at least once, and am struggling with feelings of impending doom.

Somewhere around that time, my kids get up, and the rest of my workday is marbled with homeschooling, near-constant interruptions, sibling bickering, and spilled juice. Then comes dinner. Dishes. Bedtime preparations. I collapse into bed exhausted each night, rise exhausted the next day.

At first, I was turning to Facebook for comfort. A hit of socialization. Silly memes and cute baby pictures. Instead, I get…well, you know. Then I tried playing games on my phone, but they want constant attention. And money. Not having an abundance of either, I turn to shows and books. Except I tend to gravitate towards things like Stephen King and The Walking Dead. I found You and The End of the F***ing World to be pleasant distractions. That’s where we’re at right now.

My daughter’s school just canceled the rest of the school year, so the Académie will remain in session for the foreseeable future. I am now a 2nd-grade teacher and a pre-K teacher for the next month and a half, at least. Also the PE teacher, music teacher, art teacher, computer teacher, cafeteria worker, recess monitor, and hall monitor. Plus a researcher/writer, editor, graphic designer, and book designer. It’s a lot.

It’s more than the workload that’s getting me down. If schools are closed, it means they don’t expect things to change next month. Mother’s Day month. My birthday month. The last spurt of pretty weather before the oppressive heat sets in for half a year. I’m going to miss all the spring flowers at the Botanic Garden and the Dixon Garden. I know it’s such a minor complaint in the face of everything that’s been going on, but…I’m so disappointed. I’ve been looking forward to May as a bit of respite after all this. I really wanted to spend Mother’s Day with my mom.

The future is equally murky. I’d planned to send the kids to summer camp, but now I’m reluctant to get their hopes up. Will June be better? July? Will the schools open again in August? We’d talked about taking a mini trip for Anya’s birthday, perhaps a longer vacation for our anniversary, but I don’t feel like we can plan that far ahead now. Usually when my present is difficult, I pull myself through using the future; I can’t do that this time. Everything beyond this day is an unknown.

Comfort everything is in order.

I’ve been on a cleaning kick lately; it’s one of my main coping mechanisms. Even bought a mop so I can properly wash my 9-ft walls. But I’ve taken today off, and I don’t plan on cleaning. Or teaching. Or working. Today is all about good. Hopefully the weather holds and I can play outside with my kids. If not, we have snuggly blankets, a couch, plenty of snacks, and TV and board games for days.

I have all weekend to work and clean. And the next, and the one after that. It’s not like we’re going anywhere.