Thursday, July 9, 2020

July: Hot, Pancakey, and full of Hamilton

Hello July!

Time has no meaning, but that's no reason not to get festive with the holidays that pass us by.

Despite our inability to visit my parents or host the big pool party we traditionally throw for the 4th (RIP Margarita Machine, I miss you), we had a lovely 4th of July weekend. I got an early dismissal from work on Thursday and had Friday off and though we had little planned (or perhaps because we had little planned), it really was a restful few days.

(I mean, as restful as it ever gets.)

On Saturday morning we woke up to a decorated kitchen table with patriotic pancakes and berries in a meal planned, executed, and cleaned up ENTIRELY by Landon. It was the sweetest thing.

He said he'd been planning it all week and even got up early to get everything ready so that Claire could enjoy the breakfast before heading out to be in our neighborhood 4th of July parade. He made batter in separate bowls, dyed them, used the griddle, chopped the berries, found a tablecloth from last year's party, and then set up and cleaned all the things. It was the best and such a sweet continuation of the little ways we've tried to make holidays special over the years.

Claire headed over to our neighbor's house to ride in their trailer for the parade and we watched from the spread out sidelines, cheering on the decorated cars and trucks. After the parade ended, I changed into non-sweaty clothes (even sitting in 100+ heat makes you melt) and settled in to the couch to watch Hamilton on Disney Plus. I saw it in person when it came to Dallas last year and it was amazing, but I hadn't listened to the soundtrack beforehand and missed SO much of what was going on. I had my tea and my closed-captioning fired up and was ready to begin a complete re-immersion into the Hamilton experience. The girls joined me a few minutes in. I assumed they'd get bored and leave but they were transfixed. We finished the whole show, they clapped, we listened to the soundtrack, we downloaded the movie onto Kindles to fast-forward to re-watch certain songs. We listened to the soundtrack again and again and again all day. It was THE BEST.

I LOVE musicals. I grew up listening to musical soundtracks played loudly all day, particularly while we were cleaning or doing dishes. The soundtracks of Le Mis, Phantom, Miss Saigon, Funny Girl, and more are an indelible part of my childhood memories. James does not love musicals, so while I'll never pass up the opportunity to watch one live (thanks to a great friend with a hookup!), I don't really listen to the soundtracks these days and my kids don't know every word to Angel of Music or One Day More like I did by their age. But now they have Hamilton and they are OBSESSED. We watched it every day over the long weekend and listened to the soundtrack anytime we weren't watching the show. I'll remember their faces and their lips trying to mouth the words so brightly from the weekend. Landon got sucked in on round 2 and is now determined to learn the raps as fast as his friend can say them.

After our Hamilton immersion program, we swam in the pool, enjoyed a takeout BBQ dinner with watermelon and brownies, and then swam in the pool some more. Even James and I got in and I can't remember the last time it was just us five in the pool together. After the after-dinner-swim we packed in the car to drive to a good spot to watch the city fireworks show. We got home quite late- so late our sleepy deaf guard dog never even woke up. Loud fireworks are not a problem in this house.

I taught barre on Sunday, made nachos for dinner with the leftover chopped brisket (brisket and queso are a match made in Texican heaven), watched Hamilton again with the girls, and read all the Hamilton cast twitter feeds. It was such a nice, fully unplugged (from work) long weekend.

Scooter gang, expanded

In non-holiday news, our ongoing efforts to keep our distance from the fungus kitten continue to be sub-par.

But can you imagine this tiny baby still in quarantine?

He is still getting all his medicines and twice weekly baths and he hates them VERY much.

Death glare.

But once over the insult of wet water bathing, he'll still cuddle with you, because he's a baby cat and he needs them as much as he needs to run up and down his cat tree and chase anything left on the floor.

Watching him play with Maggie is the funniest thing. He gets all riled up and runs in fast circles around her while she stands still and smiles.

He'll pounce on her face and she continues to stand, confused, but pretty sure she's playing the game correctly.

Eventually Moose will declare victory and scamper off and Maggie will go take a nap. Everyone wins.

They crack me up.

Speaking of pets, Maggie went to the vet last week because of course she did. Her allergies are acting up and we wanted to try a new vet right by our house and finally got an appointment. I had to wait in the car, but she was very excited to be on an adventure

Wait, there's going to be shots?"

She did great (Maggie LOVES the vet) and is trying a new allergy shot plan. The vet told me she fell asleep partway through the exam and stayed that way until she let out a loud fart that woke up her. Sounds right. Maggie is very comfortable in new environments where people smile at her. I love her so much.

The swim school reopens next week, which means I'm happy for James and inwardly freaking out for me. I've gotten more work done with less stress, crying, and yelling in the past 10 days than I have since the kids were at my parents' for a week. Parenting and working and being on speaking/flirting terms with your spouse are IMPOSSIBLE to all do at the same time and I'm already dreading next Monday when dual working parent status begins in earnest again. We have some new plans, but there's no comparison to just having another adult in the house affirmatively acting as the first responder, resource, and entertainer for all the things.

Backyard friend we found on the patio yesterday feels similarly

We still have to make a decision on school in the fall and I just can't. It seems reckless in the extreme to bring our teachers, staff, and hundreds of students into old enclosed buildings all day without enormous financial and other support our schools definitely do not have. Cases are rising rapidly in our area, our federal government response is still DOA, and the state education guidelines published so far are largely recommendations and not requirements. Our students cannot be physically distanced in their classrooms and masks are not required for kids under 10. How can our teachers be safe? I have seen no protocol for what to do if a teacher tests positive? or a student, or a member of someone's family? a friend? How would subs be handled? What if a sub tests positive? The 90% attendance requirement is still in place, so how would quarantine even work? We don't have a hybrid option and are supposed to pick between in-person or online for the whole semester. Surely kids or whole classes will have to go back and forth between the two?

On the other hand, James is on a call so this was my coworker earlier, doing math in a box after requesting multiple Barbies' hair be styled while I was drafting documents. I want our kids in school. Our kids want to be in school. Physically going to school right now seems reckless, at best, from a personal and community perspective. I have no idea what to do and continue to simply try to ignore the fact that the first day of school is just over a month away.

So, food.

Nacho bar!

Sun: BBQ Brisket Nachos (queso, from Velveeta in a rare but delicious homage to my childhood queso nights) with all the toppings and leftover chopped brisket. Supremely delicious.
Mon: Vegan Winter Lentil Stew. It's not winter, but this isn't heavy and we were in the mood for something light and vegetarian.
Tues: Verde Chicken Tacos (frozen chicken breasts cooked in the crockpot with a jar of verde salsa; shred and add half a block of cream cheese towards the end, turn to high until mixed in. Serve in tortillas with toppings), black beans and Mexican rice on the side.
Wed: Sheet Pan Roasted Sausage and Veggies (tonight was red potatoes, carrot, and cauliflower), Parmesan Orzo (orzo cooked and drained; melt butter in warm pan, add garlic, add back in orzo and stir with parmesan, salt, and pepper until combined and tasty).
Thurs: Salmon Cakes (we LOVE these; I use canned salmon and it works great), Mashed Potatoes, Steamed Mixed Veggies.
Fri: Pasta with meat sauce. Ground beef cooked with onion and garlic, tossed with cooked what pasta (probably a mix of whatever we have in the pantry) and a jar of our fave marinara from Costco. Whatever's left in the veggie drawer on the side. Wine.

Another week down, we made it.


  1. It is just so hard to know what to do about school. Our district has not decided what they are doing yet, but they are debating three options -- all virtual, all in-person and a hybrid option. My child really, really needs to be in school. I KNOW he didn't learn nearly as much this spring as he would have in the classroom. And I'm worried about how isolated he is socially. It's just the three of us and our dog, for the most part. But I don't want to put teachers at risk either. It feels like there's no good option.

  2. Omg the death glare from your kitty is hilarious!

  3. Here's an interesting argument against hybrid schooling, from one of the best children's hospitals in Canada (where the pandemic is less politicized).

    "Better to have kids [together] in a supervised environment with the same children, five days a week, than to be in school for a couple days a week, and then scattered across neighbours, friends, caregivers, and having lots of contact with lots more people in the intervening days."

    Of course this doesn't mean all in our all remote is the right choice - but maybe partial is the worst of both worlds...

    1. Oh I 100% think hybrid would be the worst choice (though it's interesting seeing something that says so, thanks for sharing!) and I'm glad our district isn't offering it because I'd probably be tempted- even while knowing it's the worst- because it would make me feel like it was a middle ground when I don't want to choose between the other two. Right now I think the right choice for our teachers and community is to do all virtual, while the work-from-home lawyer part of me wants to cry at the idea of not sending them back to school. And so I will continue to just not register at all, which I also know is not a solution. Sigh. There are not solutions.

  4. All in or* all remote

  5. First- Hamilton is the best. I listened to the soundtrack years before I actually got to see it (TWICE because I won a lucky lottery ticket) here in Dallas as well. LOVE seeing the original cast. It seriously never gets old.

    THANK YOU for your school thoughts. I'm in north Dallas (LISD) and I feel that it is simply insane to open the schools. I am fortunate that I am able to do the virtual option with my kids since I work remotely anyway, so I feel like I should take this option and maybe lessen the burden on those who don't have a choice, and lesson the exposure to teachers? I desperately want things to return to normal and send my kids. I just don't see how logically I can ignore the fact that NOTHING has changed with the virus. Why do we think this is ok??? I am just baffled by all of this. At the very least, we need to push things back. Ugh.

    1. We're starting to feel the same way - that if we CAN teach from home then we should, for exactly the reasons you said. Though oh my goodness do I not want to. But none of this is okay, and while everyone is reeling and trying to adjust, it feels very much like the schools are being pushed to just plow ahead and open within the adjusting that needs to happen to make it- and particularly our teachers- safe. It's just impossible and like you I'm baffled that our state seems to be pushing schools to reopen like it's normal and it's just not. My teacher friends are absolutely panicked and I don't blame them a bit, particularly as I sit safely working from home until at least January.

  6. I really hope there is school. I am infuriated how some kids in our neighborhood are essentially unsupervised and social distancing is not happening at all. At least at school the teachers might make some effort. But my part of the country is reasonably under control at the moment. I definitely might feel differently if we were in the middle of a surge. I am so sorry for all of us ��

    1. I think my main concern with going back to school is that it's putting way too much on the teachers who are generally in a much higher risk category than their students. In our district, students under age 10 don't have to wear masks and there is NO possible way to sufficiently distance the kids within our classrooms. Most rooms don't even have desks- the kids sit together at tables and they can only spread those out so much within those small rooms. So sending them back to school without adequate support, funds, or protocols feels like we're just shifting pandemic-management the burden to the teachers.

      (Not that you're saying that! But I think that's why going back to school feels like such an uncomfortable solution in my area with surging cases, little to no support or guidance, and a seemingly blind determination to Make School Happen from our state officials. I'm not so much worried about the kids or even James and I; it's the teachers, particularly in lower elementary, their health and safety, and the burden we're putting on them when they're already asked to do so much. (Though, parenthetical in a parenthetical, I also worry very much about the vulnerable students and families who are so affected by having our schools - their safe spaces - unavailable to them since March. As you said, I am sorry for all of us.))

    2. I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. For my original post I had a longer (hopefully more empathetic) comment previously but it got eaten. I think my county will do more to protect teachers than what you are describing in your area (especially those who are older or have pre-existing conditions), and I do think the biggest thing a hybrid schedule (what is looking most likely here) gives is the opportunity to achieve some sort of distancing. But for my kindergartener with mild special needs coming in with an IEP that absolutely cannot be fulfilled remotely, virtual school is worse than useless. So I get frustrated when I see articles implying that distance learning is any kind of solution. It’s just not for a lot of kids. And even with me essentially not doing my job to try and home school her, I just can’t give her everything she needs, including a reasonably safe way to socialize with other kids. I just pray that they can find a way to make school possible and some what safe for everyone including the teachers.

  7. My mom teaches in New Caney ISD, in an elementary school zoned to fairly rough neighborhoods and low parent involvement. For that school at least, the teachers absolutely want to return to the classroom and dread trying to teach online again. Students were rarely making the zoom calls or turning anything in, parents got angry when teachers tried to call and check in, and the students that did join the call in were sitting in their rooms without a parent present, and weren't really getting any home support. The teachers were totally demoralized.

    That being said, I'm choosing the online learning option. The pandemic hit right as I was preparing myself to go back to work after a few years of staying at home. Now I can't imagine trying to go back to work just yet - keeping the kids on task and giving them the necessary face to face learning is a full time job.

  8. I so enjoy your blog but don’t think I’ve commented before. Found you via Shu Box and your interview on Best of Both Worlds.

    We are in AZ where numbers are terrible. Way back in March we said numbers would have to go down before we sent our boys back (kinder and second this year). And of course numbers have just exploded. We are hoping to get spots in the online program of a charter school here because the district online option is not great (and I don’t blame them — this is way too much with too little resources to aak of schools). I don’t work outside the home so I also feel like since we can keep them home our doing so will let the kids and teachers who are there be around fewer people. I worry about how hard managing online school will be since I also recently had a baby. I just hope this situation is just for this school year!

    1. I just want to encourage you! If you can't get into the charter, there are many homeschool options similar to what the schools are offering. The difference of course I'd cost. But for K and 2nd, math and language arts (reading and penmanship primarily, although you can add in spelling, grammar, and writing for the older) are the key items. For K, one hours of structured school is enough. For 2nd, 2 hours is enough. So that is at most 3 hours of your day. Although a baby can be exhausting, it is doable.