Thursday, April 2, 2020

Life at Home and What I'm Taking with Me

It's Wednesday night! (Or it was when I typed this!) There are only two days left in the week! Not that that means much anymore.

I was talking to a friend today about how strange weekends are right now. They're different, because I don't have work calls and emails and am no longer shuttered in my bedroom, but the respite from the busy, the return to the haven of home- that is no longer their hallmark. We can't go anywhere. We aren't spending any money since James's business is closed. There are no activities to either go to or take a break from. It's just two more days at home together when we've already had all the days at home and together. Which I think is why teaching my two classes last weekend felt so personally powerful.


They were grounding. They gave my "days off" structure and purpose and my family something to work around. We don't have much to work around right now. I ended up with two blog readers joining my barre class on Sunday (hi Amanda and kt!!), several family members joining both my yoga and barre, and even an old high school friend (Class of '01!) joining my barre class from Sarajevo! It was awesome and I loved every minute. I hope you are all able to have something for you that you're excited about. And if you want to join my yoga or barre class offered through my little studio here in Fort Worth, we have new "online" pricing.


Sign up at urbanyogafw.com! I can't play music because Zoom can only transmit sound from one source, but my playlists are all on my Spotify profile is chiclaw08 if you want to play one. And, if you like, please send me an email (lagliv @ gmail dot com) to let me know you're there! I got some great comments and questions after my last classes and I so appreciate the feedback. I can also send you a link to the class once it's over to watch anytime over the next 3 days, so if the class time doesn't work for you, that's no longer a deal breaker. Teaching online has been a whole new adventure for me and I'm very, very thankful for it.


Slept through class; going to try to attend next time.

We continue to stick to our routine of James running the family home school and me working in our bedroom and occasionally popping out to say hi, offer help, and/or get more snacks. Frankly, it all continues to go much smoother and happier than either of us predicted. As always when we're on vacation or doing anything where our family unit is isolated, I'm deeply grateful we have the three of them.


Their combination of personalities and age gaps mean they don't really fight and they're like their own little pack, keeping each other entertained during their school days and "recess," providing commiseration and support during chores and other more mundane parts of the day, and just giving each other live-in playmates and friends. They're fun and funny and I'm so glad to be sheltering with them (and James!) in our pod.


And this one, obviously.

On Sunday Claire decided to teach Cora how to roller skate. Cora took to it in her usual style of just taking off, zooming forward with a smile and then falling all over the place.


At one point she took another tumble and a neighbor opened her window to call out, "You can do it Cora!"


"I know!" Cora yelled back cheerfully, "I'm just having some issues."


And I thought (1) how perfectly Cora; and (2) what a fantastic answer. The confidence, the acknowledgement of the encouragement, the correct perspective of these temporary setbacks, the absolute certainty that she's GOT THIS when she really doesn't have any reason to think so yet. Perfection and a worldview I wish she got from me, but instead, I'm going to try to get from her.

James introduced the kids to frisbee golf this week and it REALLY took off. Now on every school break and every night after dinner, they're out, climbing around the front and back yards throwing their frisbees towards things. Today, during one of my many conference calls, I looked up to see Landon jumping off the roof, where apparently he'd had to climb to get the best angle for his next shot.


Later, during yet another call, I looked up to spy this excellent little view from my master bedroom windows.


Working from home has its perks.

Speaking of home, as we go another week of paying our housekeeper to shelter in place at her home, the kids got to clean the bathrooms again! So much learning and growing happening in here.


On the learning front, our school is slowly rolling out some telelearning. Cora got to have her first Zoom conference call today with her teacher and classmates, and let me tell you, a Zoom call with a bunch of Kindergartners who haven't seen each other or their teacher since the first week of March is CHAOS. Sweet, glorious, adorable chaos.


When they weren't all waving at each other, they were all talking at once. They were encouraged to bring a stuffed animal to the meeting and Cora brought Maggie. I'm not sure anyone realized she wasn't a stuffed animal.


In arts and crafts, Landon made an iPhone out of perler beads since he doesn't have a real one (we are VERY into perler beads right now) and has taken several calls on it.


Recognize any apps? Its lifelike qualities are now highly coveted by his sisters and he's received many requests to play with it since the ironing.


(From left to right: Calculator, Phone, Weather, Photos, Safari, Messages, [2 games James has but I don't], Contacts, Notes.)

On Tuesday night we put Maggie in her party hat and loaded the kids in my car to drive by a friend's house down the street to honk and wave at their youngest for his 6th birthday. It was very cute and hopefully still felt a little special for the birthday boy! We have 5 more friends with April birthdays, and since I expect that to be the only reason I'll be in my car for the next month, I left the party hat on the gear shift. This is now the birthday honk mobile.


Maggie continues to love shelter-in-place and generally lives on her blanket under my table desk.


She opens her eyes every now and then to make sure I'm still there and she's still helping, and then it's back to sleep. Her snores are melodious and comforting. I am really going to miss her when I have to go back to work for real.


Her real bed is in the sun room. On Saturday I moved it into the TV room so she wouldn't accidentally mosey across my yoga class while I was filming, but when I moved it back, she spent the rest of the day searching for that illusive and apparently superior second bed.


She wandered the house until she was exhausted, napped hard, and then woke up and wandered again. I think now, six days later, she has FINALLY forgotten that second bed ever existed and can rest peacefully in the original. It's a confusing time.

I spent some time Sunday night, buoyed with the joy from my yoga and barre classes and the connections I got to make and reestablish over the Zoom video links, thinking about my bright spots right now and what I want to take with me when life picks back up and we reenter society. Because we're in a position to find a lot of bright spots: Our kids are old enough to stay occupied during the day for long periods of time so I can work and James can have calls when he needs (i.e., we don't have toddlers!). James is effectively unemployed and can (and has!) dedicate all of his time to the kids and our home schedule while I work. I can work from home 98% as effectively as I can work from work. My paycheck is steady and unthreatened, and being done with school loans and daycare means that James's $0 Spring, while stressful for our financial plans and sad for what he was building and what he loves to do, doesn't send me into a tailspin of financial panic. We are here and home and safe; our jobs are not putting us in danger or on the front lines like so many others. We are at ages and life stages where life is normally REALLY busy- it's great! but it's busy, and only going to get busier, but suddenly now it's not. It's like returning to our schedule when we had babies and were so home-based, but now we get to do it with bigger kids. So, now that this temporary life is less jarring (the return from vacation was HARD), I'm focusing hard on the good we're finding and growing within our walls.

A few things I've found:

- I've learned so much more about each of my kids in the last 3 weeks. I know them well, but I know them in the situations I experience with them. Seeing them doing schoolwork, seeing them on their class Zoom calls, seeing them talk about their work with their dad and each other- these are different facets of them and I'm thankful to get a pause at nearly 13 and 10 and 6.5 to get to truly SEE them.

- Slower pace and schedule. Without swimming and coaching and work commuting, we've been eating dinner at 6 (normally 7:30) and heading back outside to sit and play until sunset. There's Frisbee and rollerblading and long walks and it's really nice. It's not scheduled family time (which I love! sometimes you have to schedule it to make it happen!), it's just, time.

- Togetherness. This could turn on us at some point, but one thing that's surprised both James and I the most is how smoothly it's been for the five of us to spend literally all our time together, particularly after returning from a long trip where we had already spent all our time together. Instead of grating on each other, it's like the edges get smoother as we go. I'm thankful for the extra time - months worth of extra time - that we've all gotten to be together.

- James and I. Without going into details, it has surprised me to find that the last few years of marriage have been, by far, the hardest. There have been really great wonderful high moments and also by far our lowest moments, with a steady in between that is both comforting and occasionally confusing. But the last four weeks of constant togetherness without work or schedules or anything external have been really, really wonderful. For us. Not the outside world, it's sad and and scary and rage-inducing still. And the financial stress and sadness of his business is real and shared by us both. But between the two of us, it is smooth and happy and there is so much more ROOM to find the happiness that we know even in our low points exists between us. And while part of that has come from some hard work we've done on ourselves over the last two years, I didn't realize how much our lives- the day to day hustle and grind and the "ships passing in the night" that we sometimes are - wears on us. So I'd like to take some of this space we're making for each other forward with us, and my renewed realization of how important it is to find the time to make it.

We are, obviously, in a very privileged position to be able to find some good in this and that's why I don't want to waste it. We've also been finding room in our budget- through categories we're not spending in right now- to support local charities helping those who are hurting. We've been talking about them with the kids and have donated extra to Meals on Wheels and the Tarrant County Food Bank so far.


Two other little positives: I've been able to blog WAY more (11 posts in March! These days I've been averaging about 3), which I've really enjoyed. And I've been getting more sleep. We go to bed about 10:30, I read until 11, and I'm up at 7 and logged into my computer at the foot of my bed by 7:10. My entire "get ready for work" routine consists of brushing my teeth and considering a change of pajamas. I miss the interaction of work and will be glad to return to it, but for now, I'm enjoying the fact that I never wear a bra and haven't done my hair since we left Curaçao.


And with that, I'm going to bed. I hope that you all are safe and healthy. And if you can't find any good (as I would have struggled to do at almost any life stage prior to now), that's okay too. Sometimes survival is what you've got and an eventual return to real life will be your deep breath. Be well,

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Present Day: Online Yoga, Home School, and Happiness

Two weeks ago we were sitting at Playa Porto Marie, enjoying the gorgeous beach and the resident pig who wandered along and reminded us of Maggie as she took a little snoozle in the sand and sun.


I know, it doesn't seem real to me either.


But in the here and now we remain quite good, if beachless and without a resident pig, though we do enjoy our resident Maggie.


On to new news: a blog reader emailed me last week asking if I would consider offering online barre or yoga classes. I will admit the idea intimidated me- I've been teaching for five years, but something about beaming myself to living rooms while I attempt to teach in my own living room with all the limitations that entails, and without the in-person feedback I thrive under and rely on seemed like way too much. And in my first week at home, it was.


Family PE time

But as James settled in and truly owned our home schooling. As the kids proved their adaptability and reminded me repeatedly how lucky we are to have these genuinely sweet, fun humans who play together so well. As I adjusted to working from home and living in my bedroom. As I missed my friends and students and longed for a way to connect, I reached out to my studio owner and tentatively raised my hand.


And so I'm on our studio's online Zoom schedule! I will be teaching two classes every weekend (reminder: classes are in central time!):

~ Dynamic Yoga on Saturdays from 9:30-10:45
~ Home Barre on Sundays from 1:30-2:30


This morning I taught my first class and it was SO GREAT. I turn off everyone's audio and video feeds so the camera will stay on me, but it's pretty weird teaching to an empty living room for 75 straight minutes with no feedback. I kept having phantom thoughts of "is anyone still there? what if they've all dropped off? is that text I'm missing from someone letting me know they can't even see or hear me?" But it worked well. I practiced yesterday with a 20-minute Zoom session with a few friends, just to make sure they could hear me from across the room (my phone has to be so far away to get my whole body/mat in the frame), the lighting was good, volume, pacing, etc. I worked last night on my intention and theme and my flows. I wanted this to truly be dynamic - heart rate up, body moving, sore the next day kind of yoga because that is what my own body desperately needed. We went live with my class late yesterday afternoon and I had 13 signed in this morning! And, most special of all, among those students was a friend from Austin I've never been able to teach (and her husband; hi Becky and Daniel!), my cousin in Atlanta (hi Alyssa!), my mom (Prof Gigi, skipping ALL the "cowabungas"), my sister (Val/Tia!), and my sister-in-law (hi Tamires!). As my friend Becky texted, it's important to look for bright spots in this strange and difficult time and being able to teach so many people I love who are spread out all over the US was a true bright spot. My heart feels so full and I can't wait for more.


My blog reader who sent the email that helped push me outside my comfort zone is joining tomorrow's barre class (hi Amanda!) and if you are looking for an exercise class and a way to support one of many small businesses struggling right now, I would love to see you.


Also a big calorie burner!

If you're interested, go to www.urbanyogafw.com and click on "Sign Up for Class" (or just scroll down and click sign up by a class you want). You'll go to a new screen where you can "create an account" at the top right corner (if you already have a Mind Body account for other studios, I believe you can use the same one). From there you can sign up for any class you'd like. Our fees are $18/1 class, $75/5 classes, or you can use our New Student Special for unlimited classes for 30 days for $49! We're offering 3 classes a day with some beautiful teachers, beaming to you from their own homes. Also, if a class time doesn't work for you, sign up anyway, we'll capture your "absence" and send you a link to the recorded class to play at your convenience anytime in the next 3 days.

I'm really excited about this. I hope very much that you are all able to find or do something that is exciting to you too.


Speaking of exciting, the kids finished their Business School project that James came up with for them!


Together they brainstormed business ideas for the island of Curaçao, conducted market research, and picked one to develop together. There was research of the island population, potential competition, commercial real estate space, average startup costs, advertising, and more. The financial tables caused more than one tween to drop to the floor in despair. Partners were declared “the worst” and litigation often seemed likely. But with unending patience James talked them through each step. “You can’t always pick your partners,” I'd hear from our bedroom. And “what’s the next task? How can we start the next thing that needs to be done?”. After a full week, they were ready to present! He worked with them on presentation thoughts, they voluntarily dressed up (Landon put on a polo! on his own!), and they made note cards and rehearsed. They arranged chairs and called us in and it was maybe the most proud I've ever seen them of something they created.


We had Q&A and then negotiated my investment terms, with them running on numbers on how much equity they could afford to give away. Claire was incredulous that I would get EVEN MORE than I invested and is skeptical I have her best interests at heart.


It was so great you guys. I'm so proud of them. And James. His creativity and dogged determination to reap the benefits of this extra time with our kids are two more bright spots for me right now.


Speaking of James, the days away from the pool finally broke him and he decided to come up with a way to workout in our FREEZING very non-heated backyard pool on Wednesday afternoon. While I sipped wine from my bedroom desk and did a FaceTime happy hour with my mamas at 5:30 p.m., he was rigging himself up to a stretchy cord wrapped around a built-in patio bench leg and forcing himself to dive in.


He loved it. Weirdo.


In other news, before our shelter-in-place order came down, our elementary school teachers did a parade in their cars through our neighborhood and the girls LOVED IT. They miss their teachers so much and getting to wave at them from our yard was truly so uplifting for them. Maggie was there too and got lots of excited shouts from the cars as the teachers and staff drove by.


My mom taught part 2 of her science less on viruses, this one specifically on Coronavirus. It was so good and I learned so much! Not that I was the intended audience- she assigned homework to the kids participating, asking them to write down one new thing they learned from lesson 1, and one question they had based on what they learned so far. The kids' questions were SO good and she incorporated all of them into her second class.


Cora made sure her homework was right in hand when class began.


She's such a great teacher and it was so fun to see her work. The kids loved it and were so engaged. (And also seriously, I learned a lot too.)


Cora is missing her Kindergarten teacher so she made her a card and included some of the math work she's doing with James. This was her extra note.


To be clear, she's very proud of her "hard work," but the letter cracks me up and makes me smile every time I think of it.


If anyone was wondering, Maggie has also been working very hard.


She sleeps under my "desk" for most of the day, a trust coworker, if not a particularly helpful one.


James has been playing Frisbee with the big kids in front of our house every night. There's an elaborate points system I don't understand, and Cora mostly uses the time to hunt for roly polies, but on Wednesday she was standing near the curb when a butterfly landed on her finger. It was the thrill of a lifetime and on Thursday James caught these photos of Cora standing near the curb with her little finger outstretched for a good 20-30 minutes, just waiting for her friend.


Oh my heart. Her butterfly friend never came back, but Cora was undaunted, cheerfully telling me later that her butterfly was probably busy.


Today I made a big pancake brunch after my yoga class and then supervised the kids' chores while straightening up random things around the house. Maggie now napping, all 3 kids are swimming in our (seriously cold!) pool and acting like cold water isn't the worst.


So things within our walls are good. The larger world remains scary and sad and absolutely rage-inducing. I found out today that my high school biology teacher, who I loved and who inspired a love of biology and my future major, died of COVID-19 yesterday. I'm devastated for her family and continue to struggle to balance (and write about) those bigger overall feelings with the happiness I'm finding in our home life as we spend all our time together here. There's been a lot of joy. It sometimes seems impossible these two timelines are running at the same time.

This week's food:

Sunday: Oven Jambalaya, steamed green beans.

Monday: BBQ crockpot chicken (I use frozen chicken breasts and leave out the sugar), shredded in wheat buns with sharp cheddar cheese and pickles, oven tater tots, cut up raw veg.

Tuesday: Taco soup (I add extra beans- usually black, sometimes kidney, whatever I have around).

Wednesday: BBQ chicken enchiladas (leftover chicken from Monday rolled into corn tortillas with cheddar cheese (or not, if you're Landon), placed in a baking dish, topped with a bit of sour cream (maybe 1/2 cup total?) and sprinkle of additional cheese, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes. It's kind of a combo taquito/enchilada- they aren't wet and aren't fully covered in cheese or sour cream, delicious!), black beans, sliced avocado and tomato on the side.

Thursday: Pesto Pizza rolls

Friday: Chili and Mac & Cheese (as listed on last week's menu, I ended up making a meaty spaghetti that night because we had some Italian sausage to use).

Hope you are all well and safe and finding pieces of joy to hold tight.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Back and Forth: Curaçao Day 6: Hiking (and Surviving) Mt. Christoffel and Back to Grote Knip

Currently: Home school continues to go well most of the time. As James said to me last night when the kids were in bed, "You know, this has been so much better than I thought. I thought it would be kind of a shit show, but it's been fun. I mean, not ALL of it, and we're on the early side of things, but still- he's a great teacher and I'm focusing hard on being grateful for this family time we've gotten to spend together during what is usually a pretty busy time of year/life. I did a flash card math facts lightning round contest with Landon tonight and beat him 22-2 and that kind of tween bonding can't be had on your average Wednesday.

Speaking of teaching, my mom, master biologist and teacher extraordinaire, taught the kids and several of their friends about Viruses yesterday in a Zoom conference class!


It was really special for me to see her teach, and the kids absolutely loved Professor Gigi and learned so much! She's doing part 2 of the lesson Friday and we can't wait.


On the real world front, the news and stories from doctors, nurses, and other front line heroes remain devastating as ERs (and morgues) fill and the US continues to flounder and fail in testing, medical supplies, and leadership. I get overwhelmed and then I focus back in on what's within our walls and community and then zoom back out and get overwhelmed again. I truly do not know the right way to process a global and domestic tragedy while also trying to find the happy in our mundane. On the home front I can say we haven't left our property since Sunday and we continue to do the best we can in a very strange situation.

~ ~ ~ Back to Curaçao

Thirteen days ago: We're on Day 6 in Curaçao, a Friday, and the only day I made everyone wake up early to do something. One of the things I had on my list before we left was to hike Mt. Christoffel, or Christoffelberg, the highest peak in Curaçao, which sits inside the country's largest national park. We love hikes and national parks! Of course we will do this!


I read that because of the heat, you aren't allowed to climb after 10 a.m. and the recommended start time is 7 a.m. No problem! I thought, we'll be up when the sun hits the water and ready to hit the trails. I had zero doubts about our stamina or willingness to wake up early to make this happen.


Except we swam hard and jumped off cliffs all day every day and no one ever woke up before 8. Finally, on Thursday night I told my family it was time. This was something I REALLY wanted to do, so, because they love me (or they know James does and if he's getting up early, they are too), we set alarms for 6:30 a.m.. We didn't actually get out of bed until 7 a.m., and then there was breakfast and packing, so we headed off for the national park about 7:45.


This was definitely too late.

We drove into the National Park about 8 and walked into the little trailer that serves as the Visitor's Center. We payed our entrance fees (about $40 US), got a map and some verbal directions and a warning to drink a LOT of water and to get started as soon as possible. We piled back in the car, drove across the street, waited for the gate to be lifted by a ranger who checked our receipt, and then drove along a very tiny winding trail to the peak trail parking lot. Once there we could see the mountain before us - we've got this!, loaded all our water bottles into James's backpack along with our first aid kit and some snacks, and set out.


It was long (2 hours), it was steep (1.4 miles), and it was HOT.


So, so hot. I'm not someone particularly affected by heat or humidity- I grew up in Houston and do hot yoga and go straight back to work. It takes me forever to work up a sweat and I thought I was in pretty good shape.


After only about half a mile, it was clear I was lagging behind. The kids were nimbly climbing the rocks that make up the trail, James keeping pace beside them, even loaded down with water, while my heart kept racing and my lungs felt like they were having a hard time keeping up.


I took breaks, shaking my head and bribing the kids with snacks to get them to stop with me, wondering what on earth was wrong with me. We pressed on. As we got closer to the top I was dizzier and I realized my fingers and feet were getting numb. Being me, I shared this with no one and kept hiking, confident that fingers and feet were optional and this would all go away. I took more breaks.


The kids were puzzled.


The views were spectacular. I appreciated the chances to stop and admire them.


Once we were finally at the top I realized I was genuinely about to faint, so I dropped to the ground and put my head between my legs, slowly counting my inhales and exhales, losing my vision to blackness and wondering how on earth I was going to get down. I had created a plan for James to carry me while Landon took the backpack and the girls divided up the water bottles to lesson the weight when I felt feeling in my limbs start to come back. My sight came back. Nauseous now, I took small sips of water and opened a package of crackers. I was nibbling them slowly when the kids realized no one had lovingly suggested a family picture while atop this magnificent peak and went off to find me and inquire why I was on the ground. By this point I could focus my pupils on their sweaty happy faces and immediately suggest just such a picture.


So I don't know. I never eat breakfast because it makes me sick and can't drink water on an empty stomach (a Catch 22 I usually solve by drinking hot tea first every day, but it was too early and too hot to do so that morning), so maybe that was the problem. I will say that the climb was strenuous- not a high degree of difficulty (though you definitely needed your hands to pull you up a few times), but very steep. And with the temperature and humidity and fact that you might not be hydrating as well as normal, it can catch up with you. You should also start by 7 a.m. like LITERALLY EVERYONE recommends.


But the views were amazing. You could see the whole northern point of the island and the water all the way around. Apparently you can also see all the way to Willemstad, but unfortunately I don't think I ever looked that direction. It's pretty amazing to stand and know you are on the very highest point of a whole island and see all its beauty before you.


The climb down was great and James didn't even have to carry me.


I could feel all my limbs and my pupils were of a proper size. The views were truly incredible and I am so very glad we did the hike.


The cacti still all wanted to bite your face off, but the path was pretty clear and the iguana sightings were plentiful. The kids loved it.


After our hike we had planned to also stop at Shete Boka National Park, but we were soaked in sweat and pretty wiped, so we headed up and around the top point of the island. A restaurant named Sol Food had been highly recommended by our house managers and owner, but it didn't open until 12, so we stopped for appetizers at a restaurant overlooking our favorite jumping cliffs of Playa Forti.


James went to go jump, obviously, while the kids made friends with an iguana.


I continue to be amazed we ever sat somewhere looking at water like this and it almost felt normal. (And also that James throwing himself off a cliff and then swimming back to shore, climbing some stairs, and joining us for appetizers was also very normal.)


We ate french fries and smoothies and Cora discovered a love for fried yucca. We headed to Sol Food and had the very best pizza we'd had in a long time made by the owners- ex pats from Massachussetts who came here for their first five years of retirement thirteen years ago. They were a delight, as was the tiny restaurant and its tasty food, and after we were done we changed into swimsuits in their bathroom and headed to our beloved Grote Knip.


I read under a giant shady umbrella while Cora swam and splashed and sang grand musical numbers to herself on the sand and James and the big kids discovered new taller cliffs to scale and jump.


Every time I looked up my shady lounge chair someone related to me is jumping off something and looking very pleased about it. This cliff required you to scale it with a rope someone installed a long time ago and Claire felt very powerful indeed as she climbed her way up over and over again.


Just as it was time to leave, Cora decided it was time for her to jump off the cliffs on the other side of the beach (the ones we jumped off on Day 2). After some uncertainty, she scrunched her face, bent her body in half in an interesting form of preparation, and LAUNCHED.


She landed with a splash, popped up beaming, climbed the rocks back up, and has maybe never been so proud of herself.


It was a great day. We returned home, made big salads (the grocery store had farro!) for dinner, put the kids to bed, and listened to the ocean on the deck while checking the news on an island with zero Coronavirus cases, feeling increasingly disconnected from and concerned by about what was happening (and not happening) in the US. It was a genuinely strange feeling each night and only got stranger as we got closer to leaving and things looked increasingly worse at home.


But the island remained a beautiful place to be.

(All Curaçao posts tagged here.)