Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Threat Level: Mr. Yuk

I need one of those old poison-control Mr. Yuk stickers on my front door.

Gentle readers, we are a clean people. We take care of our home, ourselves, and our pets. In the last six months we have battled and treated lice on the tween, fleas on the dog (followed by a raging infection from a severe allergy to fleas), ringworm on the cat (not actually a worm), and- as of last night when I reached out to pick a grain of rice looking things from my baby cat's behind and that grain of rice started to CRAWL ACROSS MY FINGER- fucking tapeworm (an actual worm).

Wormy hair don't care

For added contamination fun, we all had to get tested for Covid-19 last Friday after possible exposure when one (and ultimately three) of James's swim instructors tested positive. The day before that, our angel and savior of a twice-weekly afternoon babysitter called to say her roommate had tested positive. She was negative, but we planned to keep our distance until her roommate recovered.

The swim school is closed, obviously, which was a devastating blow and a horrible email for James to draft and send out. He's been operating at a lower capacity, private and semi-private lessons only, in our outdoor pool since the shelter-in-place order was lifted. We went back and forth on whether he should reopen, but at the end of the day, it's his business and kids need to learn how to swim. Every instructor wore a mask the entire time they were teaching, parents were encouraged to wait in their car or could use chairs spaced along our driveway and wiped with Lysol between each session. Coronavirus is killed by chlorine and our pool is large enough for children and instructors to space out. It was the best he could do.

One of his instructors called in sick Friday morning- just some mild congestion- and he encouraged her to get tested, thinking it would surely be negative but wanting to be responsible. It was positive. He immediately asked every member of his team to get tested, and because my kids sometimes go say hi to his instructors on their lunch break when their masks are off (something we'll no longer allow because it was dumb but so easy to casually allow), we all got tested too. One of his swim families owns a pediatric urgent care who could do rapid testing. Two more instructors were positive (one is dating the first, so not too surprising there), the other three were negative. We were all negative. The swim family who owns the urgent care got tested because they take lessons 3x/week from one of the positive instructors and they were all negative. No one else has tested positive that we know of. Masks do work and we're hopeful it's contained. James immediately emailed all swim families, suspending lessons and offering refunds for the rest of the session for those uncomfortable resuming lessons once the instructors have all recovered. About a dozen have requested and received refunds, but the vast majority have just sent their good wishes and asked to be kept updated on the reopening. He was terrified people would be angry, and we both wondered if it had been to foolish to reopen. But, as I tried to console him on a long Friday night of answering emails- everyone knows there's a pandemic. We're all line-drawing and making our best choices along the way. Learning to swim is genuinely important. You did it as safely as you could. People are going to contract this virus and you can't control what people do after hours. Your instructors wanted to work, you wanted to be open, and people wanted their kids in lessons. Your instructors communicated with you, you communicated with your families. Everyone is doing their best.

Several people have asked me about the testing itself. It was a nose swab rapid test performed at Urgent Care for Kids on Hulen. We signed in online, waited in our car, and the kids were seen briefly by a nurse practitioner before standing out by the car for the test (James and I did a telehealth appointment as the NP on duty wasn't licensed for adults over 22). Cora went first and she let out a yelp-cry and then sobbed for 3 minutes. It is a very uncomfortable test. Claire teared up, Landon was fine and declared his nostrils "very clear now." My head jerked a bit, but it was bearable. By the time we turned the car back on Cora was calm and though she can hold a grudge, she seems to have truly recovered from the shock and betrayal of her first nose swab test (unlike Landon and Claire, she's never had a flu test; they both said it was similar to that, "but more of it," and I agree). We got our negative results by phone about 90 minutes later.

Because there is a chance for false negatives and symptoms can take a week to develop (and for the virus to build up enough to test positive), I texted the small circle of friends we'd been letting the kids play with outside to let them know we'd be keeping our distance. We canceled our trip to see my parents this 4th of July weekend. I was set to host a mama's brunch the very next day and texted my mama friends. The majority decided that with it being outdoors, my negative test and lack of contact with any of James's staff, and our ability to actually stay 6 feet apart (unlike our children), they still wanted to come. One dear friend is high-risk and very rightly stayed home and we all talked about how I think our only way forward without completely isolating ourselves (something that was deeply mentally harmful for me) is just honesty, transparency, mask-wearing, and respecting personal line-drawing.

The brunch was beyond wonderful. We'd never done a midday mamas-only gathering and something about that escape at such a busy and inconvenient time of day to drink mimosas and chat and bond and float in the pool (not me) was almost medicinal. It was supposed to be from 12-2 and I think the last mama left close to 5.

On the topic of personal line-drawing, we're supposed to register our kids for school today. We are to pick between an online-only or in-school-every-day option and I have no idea what to do. James and I go back and forth every time we talk - we believe in-school instruction is deeply important for our kids both academically but also socially, emotionally, mentally, etc. But we also know that much of what we think is so beneficial about in-school learning, like recess, lunch, specials, and more, won't be available under the safety guidelines our district is following (guidelines we have no argument with). And, in looking at our local rapidly rising numbers, it seems incredibly unlikely the in-school option will even be happening in 6 weeks, so do we just go in-home from the start? We also feel that if we send the kids to school they shouldn't be around my parents or other family members and we'd like to still see them throughout the year. So our solution is to not register yet and see where things go over the next couple weeks. I know the schools are in an impossible situation and desperately need to know their numbers, but we just don't know.

For me, I remain under mandatory telework until at least fall and I expect it to continue long after. Bowing to the semi-permanent nature of this situation, I finally ordered a real desk and desk chair for our bedroom because my giant folding conference table blocks our french doors and the old dining room chair I've been sitting on since March hurts my back. Unlike the table, the new desk can fit in a corner of our room and has some shelves and better functionality and this is just reality now. A reality that works well, really well!, when I can just work in silence, but that is really hard when the kids are here all day, which is honestly another factor in the school decision.

Yesterday evening found me crying, AGAIN, at James outside by the pool while dinner baked in the oven, after a day where it felt like I could not possibly be a good pandemic-era lawyer, mom, and wife all at the same time. Pre-Covid, I mostly felt like I could fill all those roles pretty well, in large part because I was rarely required to inhabit all of them at once. But now I can't give the kids time during the day and I don't want to give them time in the evening and the division of labor between James and me feels so heavy and I somehow flit between true feelings of joy, gratitude, and ease, to overwhelming stress, frustration, and failure, sometimes within the same hour, which seems impossible but is really just an exhausting reality.

The girls saw me crying and when I came in 15 minutes later the playroom was clean, table was set, drinks were poured, and cards were waiting by my plate. I had a moment to think I'd failed again- that they were worried or freaked out and I wasn't providing the calm foundation we strive to give our kids. But then I let myself see it a different way. That we've raised children who are so secure in their foundation that they can see that their parent is sad, not feel scared themselves, and respond with the love and comfort they have also learned from us. We ate dinner and when Cora asked why I'd been crying I responded honestly that some days it's just really hard to work my job and be a mom and run a house and all be home all the time. And I think, hope, that is okay too. I don't want them to think I did this effortlessly their whole lives- what an impossible and false standard to live up to later. And I think, and again hope, that the joy I feel so very much in these roles and share with them daily is its own testament to why the hard is worth it. But it is hard, and lately the hard is a lot harder.

Two hours later I was bathing the ringworm-infected cat in antifungal shampoo and thirty minutes after that I was watching a piece of a tapeworm inch across my finger so you know, the struggles continue. James did curbside pick up for the dewormer from the vet this afternoon (unlike the ringworm-that-is-not-a-worm, tapeworm-that-is-a-worm is easy to treat and not contagious, except through infected fleas, which we no longer have (side note on that side note: Maggie was always on a flea preventative but it prevented fleas from reproducing; apparently she could still pick up adults from her brief forays outdoors even though we ALSO have the yard treated; she is now on a bonus pill that kills fleas instantly if they bite her and if someone would sell me a bulldog sized force-field I'd buy that too because holy crap did she have a massive allergic reaction to those bites)) and Moose goes back for a ringworm re-check next week. On that front, Moose went to the vet last week where $200 confirmed he had the fungus and a bonus ear infection! He remains incredibly sweet, VERY calm, and purred continuously through his whole exam. Fungus, bacteria (and now worms!) aside, he is in perfect health. He's on liquid oral meds for the ringworm, ear drops for the ear infection, weekly antifungal baths, monthly topical flea and heartworm meds, and a pill for the worms. While the vet did urge isolation until the infection is resolved (likely 6 weeks!!), she also said reinfection is far less of an issue in one-cat households, transmission between animal species is rare, and she has many clients who treat their pet topically and don't do anything else and she's never had one come back with another problem. So, with both recommendations and reality in mind, we let Mr. Moose out of jail, have kept the bedroom doors closed, and had the kids vacuum every other day. I sleep trained 3 human children, but I could not handle a baby cat crying in a bathroom. He needs us and we missed him and if someone gets ringworm, I have plenty of cream. I can only worry about so many things.

We're trying to keep the animals separate, but it's like being a chaperone at a middle school dance making everyone dance arms-length distance. I'm constantly breaking them apart.

And so that's the update. I just ordered more masks for the kids in case we do go back to school and need to create a basket system for the used/dirty and clean masks that gather on our counter. The animals have a complex medicine schedule that I track on a large post-it. Landon's ruptured ear drum is slowly healing. I've indulged in a bit of online comfort shopping that I'll share in the next post. Once we feel confident we aren't exhibiting any symptoms after our exposure and can trust the negative test, we'll likely return to our new normal of limited outdoor contact with certain friends for the kids, once-weekly grocery shopping and necessary errands for the adults (in masks, always), and working out via Zoom, the OTF app, and James hooked up to stretchy bands in our pool. My mom had her second surgery yesterday (it went well!) and we're hoping to travel to Houston to see them in 2.5 more weeks. For now, the backyard is quiet, the kids are all here, James is back to running the in-home childcare until the swim school can reopen, and I washed the dog with her preventative antifungal shampoo during my lunch break. It's a strange time.


  1. I love your writing - thank you for sharing. These are incredibly trying times for everyone and I too had a meltdown this week that my kids witnessed. Thank you for reframing it. Mine are still little (1 and 3) but even they just gave me a big hug and my 3 yr old said "mama it's ok to be sad" (Thanks Daniel Tiger). Sorry about the Covid exposure- it seems like so many more people now know people who have it, me included. Hopefully you and your family stay healthy and everyone recovers.

  2. Your posts make my day!

  3. Hugs! I went for a preventative COVID test yesterday (drive-up nasal swab), and results will be ready within 7 days...though that seems like a really long time to wait for said results, so I'm oddly envious of your rapid test.

  4. You have amazing kids! And it is incredibly hard working FT, parenting, running a house and cooking, cleaning, etc. I cried more during the pandemic than i have for the last couple of years combined.

  5. Sarah in Philly7/2/20, 8:34 AM

    We had maggots in our trash this morning, so thank you for making us feel like we are not the only people in the world whose homes get periodically visited by extremely gross bugs.

  6. Thinking of you! So sorry about all the added stress; no one needs that right now. Just so you know I had a cat with ringworm and also contracted it, as a kid, and lived to tell the tale. My mother was horrified but it was no big deal. ;) I hope that doesn't happen to yours, though. Hang in there. Enjoy your new desk and chair!

  7. Thank you for sharing and I think it is important that your kids are able to see that being an adult is hard. Yet at the end of the day we are all in it together. Albeit most of us with less animals with worms at the moment. Gosh that is a lot. Maybe like me you need to keep reminding yourself. "This is a pandemic. None of this is normal. That is okay." Over and over again because living through a pandemic is weird and so hard. Glad to know I am not alone.

  8. As always I am grateful for your transparency! Things ARE particularly tough right now and you have also had a few spells of bad luck. If it's any consolation, I see ringworm in kids all.the.time and it's really ok. Hope there are sunnier skies ahead!

  9. Your kids are so lovely and so good at reflecting the love lessons they've learned from you. Thank you for the honesty--the part about experiencing multiple--and sometimes contradictory--emotions in the same hour really resonated!

    I wondered if you'd considered a standing desk? I've jerry-rigged a few, but am curious about more professional ones with bells and whistles.

  10. It's so important for people to share their experiences like this and I especially appreciate the perspective of a fellow alpha earner.

    My husband and I have had a lot of disagreements about how to move forward in this brave new world and his perspective was that the reason for lockdown was to flatten the curve to allow the system to catch up, not to prevent everyone from getting it entirely. So some of us do have to start to introduce more risk into our lives and we can only manage it as best we can.

    The impact of COVID on working mothers is shocking and I have so much love for every parent out there. We have been given an impossible task and we will fail probably more than we will succeed. My best hope is that years from now all my three year old will remember is that she felt safe (always) and happy (most of the time).

  11. I'm in PA and our whole family has it - the first week we sent our kids back to daycare. It was not fun to reach out to the daycare parents I know and let them know; most were very understanding. I feel awful that we may have gotten someone else sick. We are all doing the best we can.