Pandem(ic)onium

If you haven’t read a blog by now that starts with “may as well start documenting some of this craze for the martians to find in later years,” you are blessed. And by ‘craze,’ I’m not saying it’s not real – I absolutely get it. And I also absolutely get that humor keeps me moving forward. So, yes, quarantine blog alert – and yes, will try to keep it light. And, yes, I promise not to do this every week. Which may be difficult when your blog is about ‘real life, unfiltered.’ Now collecting opinions on how to keep the realness of self-isolation from being repetitive. Especially when my tendency towards anxiety is best swayed by structure? Well. Anyway. I’ll figure it out. In the meantime, our week at a glance – likely repeated all over the ‘Ville.

On Tuesday night, at approximately 8:00pm, a few of my mom tribe reached out to see how Zack was taking the home school load. This was only confusing in that he’d told us twice during the day that there wasn’t anything posted, thus solidifying his visions of a balmy, relaxing two weeks off. For funsies, we had him log into his school portal with our eyes on it – which is when he informed us that he didn’t know how to get into his school email. Rich and I shared glances – and will likely never know if that’s true or not – as I forwarded the link forwarded to me from another mom (yes, kids, we do all work together to plot your misery. We’re already working on next week). Upon accessing the website and share drives he likely already knew how to access…a low level of panic started to fog up the room. This wasn’t going to be a practice-spring-break after all. This wasn’t even going to be a ‘get a few of these things done just so we don’t have too, too much to catch up on’ event. This was a full blown ‘Oh, hey there, Zack Barlow, welcome to home school, Hanover style.’ I can promise you the pants shi**ing had nothing to do with a virus.

We watched as Zack went through all seven stages of grief in under three minutes. We listened as he bounced between belligerence to panic to giving up to disbelief. We saw tears creep into the corners of his sweet eyes (okay, yes, child. This does absolutely suck). We attempted to talk him off several ledges and a few soap boxes over the next twenty minutes, explaining that what he was being tasked with was completing what would be completed within a ‘normal’ school week – while also giving him plenty of space to absorb the idea that this was as far from normal as it could possibly be. We helped (read: laid out) him come up with a schedule that would involve him attending ‘school’ for five hours each day. We suggested potential orders of events. The assignment that got him most loopy? Physical Education. 60 minutes, 5 days a week, of some sort of movement, preferably outside – oh, and also track what you are eating so we can reflect on it later. Welcome to my life. I spent the next morning reflecting on my wine intake the previous night.

My hats truly go off to his teachers – how they pulled this off so quickly is beyond me. I do hope they were working on this well in advance, as the idea that they knocked it out over a weekend sounds like a very frustrating miracle. I consider all of our kids’ teachers extended members of our family. I imagine putting this together with an inkling of not getting to watch them finish out the year was heart wrenching. And yes, bless you Coach Butler, for making our exercise plans seem not so bad after all.

Mid-Wednesday, after seeing Zack wandering the house – I asked him how it was going and he responded, “I don’t even know…and I still haven’t gone outside…” It was 2pm. Zoe was holed up in her room which Rich visited and learned that she’s “got all this Teach for Tomorrow’ work…like, what’s the point?” To which he responded, ‘Well, you already have an F in the class, so maybe that’s the point.” I’d say we did not knock it out of the Quarantine Academy park on opening day.

Thursday seemed to be better – surprisingly so. Rich and I got out of bed at a more reasonable ‘working parents’ hour and Zack looked less like a dead man walking, heading to his desk/kitchen table at 10am. I generally work about thirty feet from where Zack’s set up – so we were able to chat a bit (mostly him finding errors in his teachers’ work…sigh…yes, buddy, they put this all together with lightening speed). My annoyance at having my ‘work zone’ invaded diminished a bit and I remembered that I do have an actual office to retreat to as needed. It’s pretty nice actually – and the dogs discovered the couch in there, so I do still have company. At about 11:30am, I mistakenly thought ‘we’re doing it!’ Hold my beer. Ping…an email arrived from one of Zoe’s teachers informing me that she, in fact, had not turned in the assignments she’d missed while we were on vacation, was currently failing the class and something like ‘just wanted to let you know I’ve asked her to take my class seriously during this break’. Well. Okay. PS…this was a different class than the aforementioned one.

To be fair to that teacher…our senior is an equal opportunist. She’s bailed on five out of eight classes thus far this second semester – we basically have a canned response to those dreaded emails that says something like ‘thank you for letting us know – while we are aware of the downfall of Zoe’s grade, we feel that, at 17, none of us should be hounding her to get her work done.’ This child…who I love…and who drives me bananas…also essentially sweats luck. Because some how, some way, this virus is going to save her from completely bombing this year. Remember that cap and gown she never ordered for graduation? And how prepared I was to swoop in at the last panicked minute with the one I did order for that very same last minute hero shot? Yeah, who’s laughing now…(no, graduation isn’t officially cancelled yet, I’m just planning my next ‘oh my gawd, she will literally never experience a natural consequence in her life’ tantrum.

In other day two news…Zack informed us that he was basically done with his two weeks of work. Well. Okay. Back to a balmy, relaxing two weeks off. We expected him to get through the work faster than his racing brain imagined – but two days? He shoved away from the table at 1pm, two hours earlier than our agreed upon ‘school’ time and announced he was done for the day. I calmly questioned the time and the missing two hours and was told ‘I need to say something for next week or else I’ll be bored.’ My hope is he never finds out that this portion of his school life will not be graded – my hope is that he continues to learn self-motivation and feel the sense of pride on finishing a schedule he (mostly) ran on his very own.

I was pretty much failing at quarantine – always able to find just one quick errand to run to get myself out of the house. I drove to CVS – positive I could make it there and back without touching anything or licking the door handles. It’s amazing how many things one actually touches when one is paying close attention to what they touch. I drove there, only touching my car insides. I gloried in the amount of kids outside playing on my way – what a sight! I pulled into the pickup lane, opened my window and announced my order. Oh, right, I’m going to have to touch the prescription bag after Will at the Drive Thru touches it. Oh right, he wants my FSA card – okay, great, now he touched that. He seems so nice, Will, but do I really know where his hands have been? Oh, now he wants me to sign something on a clipboard and I have no idea who else has touched that what now?? Realizing my level of exposure, I gave up and drove right next door to the craft store and coffee store – yes, still dodging people walking near me, still not licking any door handles. Returning home, I washed to the house standards and hoped not to hear a report the following day about a Covid patient near the fake flowers of the AC Moore. Quarantine has already become a lot like healthy eating to me – like “oh man, I saw a bagel this morning…that’s it, I ruined it, I guess it’s pizza for lunch, ice cream for dinner, and chips before bedtime.” Now it’s “well, shoot, didn’t remember to wash my hands in that 20 minute period, off to Kohls!”

Friday was better still – oddly, I think, because we knew the scenery would change for the weekend. The kids would head to their biological mother’s (once she passed Rich’s twenty questions of true disinfectedness) and we would have a break of some sort. Again, not to say we have difficulties with the kids – just that going from a family of four to a kid-free couple does offer a bit of fresh air. We had a pattern – Zack, Quarantine Academy (I’ve awarded him Student of the Month); Zoe, we’re not sure…hopefully also homework-ing; Rich & Jyl working, this time with no made up excuses to leave the house. At about 3pm, we sent the kids out for their daily prison yard outdoor time – reluctantly – to read in the hammocks. Thirty minutes later, they returned with the story of how Zack’s hammock tore right in half, mid-chapter. Well, it was a good try (new hammocks arrive tomorrow).

Rich and I rolled into the weekend determined to lay down the ‘stay in’ law. I lined up a ton of arts & crafts projects, but, before I could plug in my glue gun, Rich had me in the storage end of our basement digging through boxes to determine if what we thought was important enough to keep five years ago was still important enough to keep in 2020. Have you ever tried to zip through bins of memories ‘real quick?’ It just doesn’t happen. ‘Look at this picture!,’ ‘Have I shown you this trophy?,’ ‘Oh, I used to write poetry!,’ ‘A bag of leotards!….wait, why am I keeping these…?,’ ‘Did we ever even own this?’ And on it went. The big success was combining boxes – taking our individual boxes of memories and combining them by topic into shared boxes – like real grown ups having a real relationship. He likes me! He really likes me! To celebrate, we broke into our quarantine frozen pizza stash.

The thing that drives me crazy about all of this is the complete inconsistency in information. We got up Sunday and made plans to do a quick trip here and a quick visit there – still social distancing, but also picking up a few items and comparing stories with already missed friends. But we didn’t even get through breakfast and our morning reviews of the latest news before the grimness of what we were hearing put us both back on our motivated heels. One of the hardest parts of this moment is that everyone wants to be the first to get out whatever information they have – and check for accuracy later. It’s the nature, I suppose, of a social media driven world – who can be the most in-the-know the fastest? The obvious problem is nobody ever does go back and fact check or correct their incorrect statements. It’s a world wide game of whisper down the lane and by the time it got to us on Sunday, it appeared global destruction was imminent. We spent an hour wondering if we were doing enough – do we have enough food, are we sanitizing enough, should we have sent the kids to their bio-mother’s, can we visit with Rich’s mom, will school ever be back in, etc. etc. etc.. Plans were shot and the only trip we made was to the CVS drive-thru.

By last night (Sunday), there were notifications rolling out that our governor would make a 2pm announcement today on his plans for grade school education going forward. Rich and I had already made some tweaks to the weekdays – adding some fresh air breaks, defining the days’ start and study times, etc. I know this goes against what some camps say – that our kids are all processing too much already to be put on schedules and have expectations. Thanks, but after all the grumbles and confusions of last week (including basically not seeing our eldest for an entire 24 hours), we went for it. So, today, we all met for breakfast just to lay out the new (very malleable) guidelines and prepped the kids for what would likely be an announcement that school would not be school again this academic year. And, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened – with the added bonus of the official start to our shelter-in-place.

I have to say, the kids took it well – at least in front of our eyes – probably better than me. There was definitely a house-wide sense of ‘okay, we finally know’ relief and an official ability to move forward – ironically, by standing still. I am having a hard time recognizing myself – full of flexibility and ideas on how to make this a time full of memories. It feels oddly like a do-over to my initial arrival to this home (that didn’t go so well) – like this time, I know these people – and they know me – and I know not to go balls out in strictness and rules and begging for perfection (both from myself or anyone else). Now we have a direction – again, oddly, to go nowhere – and I can be a more intelligent part of figuring out our foursome’s best path rather than demanding which one to I think we should take.

Yes, I’m still riding a roller coaster of anxiety (God Bless our mental healthcare benefits).

Yes, I will likely spend four of the next seven days hiding my tears in the shower water.

Yes, I did add more wine to the grocery list in lieu of breaking into the emergency wine (I can tell the difference because that wine is in a box).

Yes, I cooked pasta tonight for the first time in years – take that isolation!

Yes, I’ve committed to putting on real pants once a day, just in case my drawstrings are lying to me.

We’re doing it!

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