Monday, March 23, 2020

Real Life: Last Week This Week All the Weeks

A week ago tonight we got back home after our 9 day getaway to our Caribbean island/another planet. I had a million unread emails and five conference calls scheduled for Tuesday, the kids were suddenly at home and very much not back in school as planned, stores were empty, and James was facing a $0 session in what is usually his most lucrative season. It was kind of a lot. But it worked, so here's all the filler from the last week that I missed writing while working and mentally revisiting Curacao as much as possible.

~ ~ ~ Home School:

James took over schooling and has been doing such an amazing job that I frankly find him at least 50% even more attractive than I did before. He has such creative ideas- today he asked the big kids to design a Jumanji game (we watched Jumanji 2 on Friday night; loved it!). They needed to create at least 3 characters, name them and give them strengths and weaknesses, and then create 3 levels, each featuring at least one animal or topological challenge. The kids can illustrate them and write a narrative for each level describing how the characters do, how their strengths and weaknesses come into play, and how the facts they've researched about the animal or land challenge try to defeat them. It's GREAT.

When I took a break from reviewing documents, Landon couldn't wait to read me his characters and first level (alligators in a swamp with trees and long vines that are sometimes actually snakes; did you know alligators can run up to 20 mph? I do now!). There's math facts contests and their still-evolving business plan (currently working out an advertising budget), PE challenges and reading time, art and writing letters... we're not yet using any of the suggested online programs, but our school hasn't started distance learning (and may not; we have a large population of low economic status students, I'm not sure distance learning can work for us?), so nothing is specifically required.

We likely have many weeks to go and I'm sure there will be many bumps along the way, but I love that the art room I designed last Spring is getting so much use and everyone is getting some joy from our current schedule. I love that the kids are getting this time with their dad and that I get to pop in and enjoy it on the sidelines. I can't wait to hear their Jumanji games- Claire has a character named Rebecca (that's me) and I'm just sure she's going to win.

Always a winner, though probably not in Jumanji

A funny story from one of last week's "science lessons," watching "Our Planet" on Netflix. A few minutes in to Episode 1 the camera zooms in on a small bird, trailing behind his block on the Peruvian coast:

: Oh that baby bird's a goner for sure.

Claire: What?! No! He might make it!!



Landon: Told ya.

A learning experience for all. Cora was quickly switched to art. Disney may have conditioned her to expect parents to die, but the baby birds should all make it!

In real science class news, my expert biologist teacher-of-the-year-too-many-times-to-keep-giving-it-to-her mama is going to teach the kids and some of their friends a science lesson on viruses this Wednesday morning! It's going to be great and I think we'll all learn a lot from Professor Gigi.

Super into perler beads right now

~ ~ ~ Exercise:

One thing that has been helping my sanity is getting out for walks with the kids during lunch or as soon as I sign off from my computer. James has great PE lessons- running sprints back and forth in front of the house; doing lunges and other bits of dry land in our back yard; biking while he runs a few miles through the neighborhood, but after 3 days of just sitting in my repurposed kitchen/desk chair in my bedroom, I decided I should move too. So last week I took the kids on a long walk and we met a fellow yoga teacher trainee and her bird! In her backpack! While not strictly socially distanced (though I tried to keep them only behind her), each kid got to "hold" the bird on their finger through her backpack while she said hello to Maggie.

It was a glorious meeting of human, avian, and canine, and the kids have brought it up daily ever since.

On Saturday I finally decided I needed to actually work out. As of last week I've been a barre instructor for 5 years and am a certified yoga teacher- both forms of exercise are well suited to working out at home, so you'd think of all people I could manage a workout or two but NO. NONE, I just cannot do it. Just let me sit braless in my same pj pants and sweatshirt for 3 days and let's pretend it's required under the quarantine rules.

But after watching James work out daily I decided I could put out the slightest effort so I put on workout clothes and a real sports bra (ugh, it felt like such big step and I worry for when I need to wear real clothes to work again) and went for a run.


Landon, post PE

And dammit, it felt freaking great.

Then I came home and did a quick 20 minute yoga flow and that ALSO felt great.

Which was annoying because now I have no excuse not to get on my mat every day. I got a very sweet email from a blog reader asking me to stream a class AND I might be doing a Zoom class for my Urban Yoga studio next Sunday, so I'll keep you posted!

Today I did my run at lunch. I ran 2.5 miles and it didn't even feel terrible and I think this may be a thing I do now? The kids went with me, the girls on bikes and Landon LITERALLY running circles around me the whole time and it was actually pretty great. Even if I wasn't wearing pj's.


~ ~ ~ Housekeeping:

We told our housekeeper to stay home this week (and I'm sure for the next several weeks) to keep her safe and follow the "essential employees only" measures of our county. I actually consider our housekeeper one of the most essential people in my life, but sadly that's not the public health yardstick we're using here. We still paid her of course- she's been with us since I went back to work after Cora was born, and while I'm sure some people truly can't afford to keep making payments for things like that, I am still getting paid, even if James isn't, and we can do the right thing. She was very appreciative and I hope very much that most of her clients are doing the same.

This decision gave us the chance to teach out kids how to clean a bathroom, something I'm honestly pretty embarrassed to realize they had never done before, so personal growth opportunities abound! They were not exactly thrilled, but I gave them each a bathroom (I helped Cora with ours) and they cleaned showers and bathtubs, scrubbed sinks and toilets, mopped the floors, and cleaned the mirrors. They actually did a really great job and, the above picture notwithstanding, were pretty doggedly cheerful about it. I also divided up the house into two parts for vacuuming and dusting and they each changed the sheets on their beds. It was really good, like a life skills home school lesson, and opened my eyes to the fact that though I grew up doing those chores regularly, my children have not and I'm glad they're learning them now.

Their regular chores continue of course (someone asked me about this a while ago but I never listed them): Landon (12.75) does all his laundry, washes the dishes every night, walks Maggie in the morning, and takes out the recycle whenever it's full. Claire (9.75) folds and puts away her laundry (I start and switch it), wipes the table after dinner, empties the dishwasher each morning, and takes out the trash when it's full. Cora (6.25) does the same as Claire with her clothes, clears off the table after dinner, and feeds Maggie both her meals. They also take the big trash cans down to the street for collection and bring them back up once per week, scoop poop in the backyard, and keep their rooms/cubbies straightened up and help with whatever else is asked. In return they get room and board and pretty great vacations; they don't really complain too often, though Landon's wail of "But I have to do ALL THE THINGS" when asked to take out the trash a few years ago remains a family-favorite response to nearly everything.

~ ~ ~ Socially Distant Neighboring:

An upside to everyone being home is that everyone has been going on a lot of walks. We've had many friends walk by our house and give a shout so we can wave and yell hi from our front porch. Landon yelled "bro" back and forth to one of his buddies just today and both seemed to get enormous joy from doing so. A sweet older neighbor at the end of our street lost her husband earlier this year. It was her birthday on Sunday, so we all brought our own drinks and stood in the corners of our yards and sang to her while she sat on a chair in her yard drinking a bottle of champagne. The kids brought her cards the next day and taped them on her door. It was lovely and I met a few neighbors I hadn't actually seen yet! Though every single one knew our dog and she's only lived here a year. (Our 8th anniversary of moving here was also last week; hard to believe, honestly.)

Famous; uses her powers for good.

~ ~ ~ Food

As I noted, we stocked up on essentials before we left on our trip, but cleared our refrigerator of anything perishable (as is tradition before going on a long trip, Saturday's dinner was a very strange one). Then we got home Monday night and stores were absolutely empty, and we were trying to quarantine ourselves after going through Customs and hanging out in the International Terminal at MIA for 6 hours, so we weren't doing much shopping. This was fine- I had provisions!- and we cobbled together meals from the freezer and pantry, supplemented with James's short Lysol covered forays out to our local store for attempts at finding bread, milk, eggs and produce. He tried twice and came home with a few things each time, but we mostly hunkered down.

On Saturday night we did our first takeout order. We're trying to balance our duty to quarantine, with our limited budget (James's swim school income is $0 for the foreseeable future) and my need to use the food that we stocked, with our love of food (the only downside to Curacao was an extreme lack of restaurants so we made pretty much all our own meals) and desire to support our local businesses. Finally, on Saturday, I decided it was time. We ordered a family fajita pack from our local Chuy's which included a ton of steak, all the sides and toppings, lots queso, jalapeno ranch, more chips than we could eat in a week, some fresh produce (the catering director said they're trying to use up inventory), and a big roll of toilet paper. It was $50 and it was GREAT. And we had the leftover steak and sides with breakfast tacos the next morning. I'm thinking we may try to do that once a week until this is over? That's twice as much as we normally eat out, but I'm also eating all my lunches at home, so I think it balances. TBD.

Fueled by fajitas, I decided to do our regular weekly grocery shopping as early as possible on Sunday morning. Our family of five, with a James who eats for another 4, is like a pack of locusts going through our stock and our weekly shopping is usually pretty voluminous, so I was worried about how much we could get. I was in the parking lot at 7 a.m., my first time driving since before we left on our trip, to see my first store in our new Coronavirus restriction measure world. Our Kroger was pretty well stocked- they'd gotten in trucks the night before, but plenty of shelves were eerily empty. They were limiting all customers to only 3 of any item (which is great, but it turned out to be 3 of any CATEGORY of item, which I didn't know until I went to check out and felt like a dirty food hoarder, apologizing and removing things from the belt), but I was able to get much of my list. Or substitutes for much of my list. By the time I was done the store was getting more full and it was harder to keep a distance from people. I couldn't get any fresh meat, so I went for ham hocks (pea soup!), smoked turkey sausage (red beans and rice and jambalaya!), and tried to adjust my other ingredients on the fly. It was an interesting experience, made all the more so after my 16 days away from our usual errands. A LOT has changed since I last ran to the store the day before we left on March 7th.

My cart was full and I was getting some looks from people as they went about shopping. It seems like maybe it would be better to shop for less more often, but we're trying to limit going out, so I don't know. I truly only got what we would eat over the next 5 days, and I carefully considered each item before placing it in my cart, it's just that we need a lot of food!

James went to Trader Joe's 20 minutes before it opened to try to get what I could not. There was a line and they were limited how many were in the small store at a time. He was able to fill in my gaps (chicken! bread! milk! one green pepper and two onions! refried beans because I went over my 3 "canned good" allotment at Kroger!) and we should be good for the next week. So with that background, here's our menu:

Sunday: Crock Pot Creamy Ranch Chicken and Potatoes. (My sister sent around this recipe on Saturday and it was the perfect thing to use up half a bag of potatoes (that bag representing one of the only produce items James was able to get last week), a bag of baby carrots, and some frozen chicken breasts I had bought before we left. I always have brown rice on hand and happened to have a Ranch packet in my pantry's recesses! It was very good, though I recommend doubling the Ranch packets, something my sister didn't tell me she'd done until after we were eating it. The flavors were there, but needed more oomph.)

Monday: Split Pea Soup. (I added about a tablespoon each of onion powder and garlic powder because they make almost everything better. It smells amazing as I type this.)

Tuesday: Tacos (thanks to frozen Costco ground beef purchased before we left), Mexican Rice, Refried Beans; available toppings: diced fresh tomato (yay!), sliced black olives from the last can on the shelf, shredded cheese.

Wednesday: Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli. (I make this up as I go. Start with a bunch of pesto in a large saute pan- I had the Costco container still in my fridge and it lasts a while- warm it up, add heavy cream, stir around let it thicken. Add in cooked pasta (we'll do whole wheat rotini) and cooked chicken cut into strips. I'll probably dump the broccoli into the boiling pasta water the last couple minutes of cooking so it gets added with the pasta too.)

Thursday: Red Beans & Rice. (The store was out of the small red beans I prefer, but they had dried red kidney and that should work.)

Friday: Homemade Personal Pizzas, hopefully with some leftover fruit or veggies. (I use this recipe for the dough, jarred pasta sauce for the sauce, and whatever mix of cheese and toppings are left in the fridge.)

Saturday: Chili and Mac & Cheese. (The mac & cheese is family style Blue Box goodness courtesy of Kroger and I don't care who knows it. Chili recipe based on this one, but with shredded carrot added in the saute step, and a can of pinto beans and 1 tsp. of paprika added after that. I like a generous spoon of mac & cheese in the middle of my bowl with the chili spooned over the top. Shredded cheese and fritos on top of that for the perfect savory sundae.)

Sunday: Hopefully another curbside takeout meal from somewhere local and delicious.

Lunches: I was able to get deli meats and one bag of wheat rolls, so today was sandwiches for all. We did a breakfast taco brunch on Sunday that was delicious and are offering an option of leftovers from the night before or sandwiches for the rest of the week. We have apples this week and cucumbers for Cora (our little fruit-hater we keep thinking will change) and bell pepper for all. It's a pretty normal week meal-wise and we feel very lucky to be able to say that.

Hope you are all doing well! Thank you for your comments on the last few posts, they give me a smile and feel a little less isolated each time one pops up.


  1. I live in Canada, and the rules are very different. If you return from a trip out of the country, you are on mandatory quarantine for 14 days. No shopping, no walks, nothing. Straight from the airport to your house. Groceries must be delivered, dropped on the step, paid electronically. Please listen to the NY Times Daily podcast today (Why the American Approach is Failing). My daughter has an autoimmune conditon, and is quarantined for her safety. I have not seen her for 3 weeks now. My neighbour has asthma. My friend's son has Down Syndrome. We are all afraid for their safety.

    1. To Canada - I am in Washington state and our rules are the same. Our friends came back from Europe and it's 14 days inside, no walks and no shopping. Not wanting to make LL feel bad but going to a grocery store is not 14-day self-quarantining. Our friends are having delivery, having friends/family/neighbors doing their shopping, leaving it on the porch. Another blogger in Montana got back from Thailand and he had groceries left on his door, lattes left on the roof of his car and then he retrieved them after the friend left, pizza delivery with no contact. This was not required by Montana - his own initiative. Maybe the Caribbean is less risky than Europe or Asia, but the MIA airport is probably one of the worst places to be, besides just being on a plane, which unfortunately is probably not clean.

  2. Keep posting! I love hearing updates and makes us feel like we are not alone in our isolation. -Kate

  3. We all feel more connected when you post! Fingers crossed for live classes this weekend - whether you leave the house or just teach from the LL studio. We're all adjusting to this live/work/play at home all the time surreality that we're currently living in. I have my moments, too. But remind myself that I am fortunate to have a salaried job and can recognize the reason for the temporary closing of essential-to-me services that are considered non-essential right now. Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep posting!

  4. I was reading a post somewhere and it said something that stuck: a couple of generations back they were going to actual war to kill/be killed. We are just being asked to wash our hands and stay put. Kind of put a bit of perspective into my day.

  5. I love this post! Feels like normal and honestly I look forward to your posts so much. Especially in this crazy time.

  6. I would love some virtual barre or yoga classes - I've always wished you would come back to Austin so I could take one of your classes.