PARENTING, TRAVEL, AND LITTLE JOYS
Just a reminder in case somehow it's unclear: you do not have to enjoy a pandemic.
If you are enjoying it? Great!
If you are savoring alone time, or time with your kids, or time with your cat, or whatever? Great.
If you are baking bread or writing a book or learning to crochet or binging Ozark? Great.
If you are choosing joy for yourself? Great.
I hope you are. I support it. I am here for it. I celebrate your positivity and success. You're a ray of light. You're working hard. Yes.
But I would implore you that telling other people to "choose joy" is not appropriate as blanket advice. There are people who are sick. Unemployed. Terrified. Sad. Angry. Lost. And these are appropriate feelings that aren't just a matter of attitude or choice of how hard anyone is trying. Giving the advice to others to "choose joy" (or whatever other platitude suggests that you just need a positive attitude) is a real privileged take, and it's yucky.
If you want to inspire other people to choose joy, I love it. You keep choosing joy and shining your light, and that will inspire them. If you want to really help other people who are in a time of need, help them with money or food or purchasing something from their business or advocating on their behalf to your elected officials or helping them with paperwork or listening to what they ask for and giving them that.
Just to recap: Choosing a positive attitude and finding the good in a tough time? Awesome. Trying to uplift others? Awesome. Telling other people to choose a positive attitude right now?
IT IS OKAY IF YOU ARE NOT ENJOYING A PANDEMIC. IT IS OKAY IF YOU ARE JUST GETTING THROUGH IT. You do not have to enjoy it, and it's not a moral failing if you don't, and it wouldn't all be okay if your attitude was different.
Today we were playing with some toy apples and pretending they were a family. And then...
Me: What does the Daddy Apple say?
Son: Don't eat me, I'm too big!
Me: What does the Baby Apple say?
Son: Don't eat me, I'm too little!
Me: What does the Mommy Apple say?
Son: Would you PLEASE leave me alone for just five minutes so I can pee?!
He's not wrong.
I never let my phone battery die. Never. If I need power for songs on a morning run, taking an Uber, or taking a late-night call, the battery is always charged. I've had this phone for 3 years, and the battery has never died, no matter what country I'm in, whether I'm on a long flight, or how busy the day is.
Until this quarantine, in which my phone battery has died 5 times and it's perennially on "low battery". I also keep losing my phone in my house, which is, like, SO not something I do.
I saw a meme saying that people who let their phone die when they're stuck at home are a special breed, but it made me wonder. When I'm using my phone so much less, and when I'm near an outlet all the time, how does it keep dying?
Presumably, I have lost my routine, so I've stopped charging it. I don't need to depend on it, so I have made it something that isn't dependable.
It seems like a very good metaphor for my personal battery. I have never had less to do than I do right now, but my battery is constantly low. It's not because I'm doing too much, but because I have lost the things that charge it back up (for me, that's alone time, work, routine, and... work!). I do not have a dependable battery right now.
So for those of you whose phone batteries or emotional batteries are running low and running out, you're not alone. We may not be able to find a way to charge up right now. We may have to take the little moments where we remember to plug in - both our phones and ourselves. We can get through it.
My hypothesis is that for both the phone battery and my internal battery, maybe mindlessly scrolling through my phone a little less would help!
6:55am: Argue about how “Arkansas” is pronounced. Lose.
6:59am: Learn that today isn’t school because mom “is not someone for learning”.
7:00am: Casually stepped on.
7:03am: Reminded for the literally one thousandth time that we don’t have any books about Pat Nixon.
7:05am: Did you know you can order tequila on the internet?
Happy Monday, reluctant homeschoolers!
The thing about making a carrot cake in quarantine is that then you’re quarantined with a carrot cake.
Do you find playing with your kids really boring? I sort of do!
Here's my trick that seems to, in my case, make it a lot better: play how you want with the toys. Like, try to actually have fun instead of doing what your kid wants. It works because:
(1) Your kids see you having fun. That makes them happy.
(2) You kind of have fun. That makes you happy.
(3) Your kids learn that playing with toys is fun and makes one happy.
(4) Your kids maybe want to play the way you're playing (sometimes they don't). Then they learn a new way to play. OR...
(5) Your kids don't want to play the way you are. Then they learn how to compromise or coexist.
It... doesn't work perfectly. You can't be selfish and take the toys and do whatever you want. But I was surprised that acting a little more selfish in playtime seemed to make it more fun for everyone. So if I'd rather build a rainbow than a house, that's what I build.
If you dread playtime because you're forced to do the same boring thing over and over, try mixing it up by playing in a way that's interesting to you!
This whole "don't leave the house" thing has me with the travel bug REAL bad. I thought I'd share just a few travel photos here. Maybe we can all just wanderlust from home for a while until the world is open again.
Let's be clear - this isn't homeschooling. This is trying to do some school-like activities while trapped at home in a pandemic. My son is four. Our expectations are LOW.
That said, a little bit of structure in the day is making it easier on everyone. A little bit of learning in the day gives us all something to do. I try to have a couple hours a day of "school" where we do some activities together that aren't watching TV or playing solo with toys.
The best tool in our arsenal has been this:
The "Cat in the Hat Learning Library" is 20 books written in the style of Dr. Seuss on topics like seeds, mammals, or money. The books vary in quality, both in writing style and in content. There are at least 2 different authors in the series, and one is better than the other. Some of the rhymes are kind of a stretch, but they include lots of info and are pretty easy to read.
There are some factual errors (like the whole section on how ostriches live in Australia?!), though overall I've found the content pretty informative and accurate. It's accessible at a pre-school level with some concepts and vocabulary that would be interesting and new all the way through elementary school (or to those of us who haven't taken a science class since the mid-90s).
This doesn't sound like a glowing recommendation so far... so why am I such a fan? There's enough material in each of these slim books that it gives us sort of a curriculum theme for the day, and then I can look for other age-appropriate activities that go along with it. So for the "Oh Say Can You Seed" book, we have planted seeds, counted beans, and looked for different types of leaves in the yard. Older kids could label parts of a plant or write a summary, as just some examples.
Having a theme for the day and some basic terms, diagrams, facts, and pictures helps everything else feel like "school" and kind of feel tied together. So if we're drawing, playing with clay, playing with toys, writing, doing an art project, singing a song, or looking for another book to read, we can look for one that relates to the theme.
For us, this set worked well because these books are new to us and have lots of content. But if you don't want to order a new set of books, you could think about just choosing some books you already have in the house and using one a day (or few days) as a theme "unit" for all your homeschool activities. This is far from a novel concept - it's used in schools around the world all the time. But somehow having a little "textbook" like this to anchor it to was a lot easier for me than just coming up with my own theme of the day and trying to find all the materials myself.
What have you tried that's worked well?
To be honest, a lot of our quarantine meals have been old stress-eating classics like "cheese from the bag while standing in front of the fridge" and "a couple ice cream sandwiches."
But, we started getting weekly produce delivery because we're avoiding the grocery store, and so we were overrun with some choices we'd normally skip. Cue this yummy salad, which we've been eating for two days.
- 1 bulb fennel, sliced VERY thinly
- 1/2 bunch celery, sliced VERY thinly
- 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, sliced VERY thinly.
Mix those all together in a bowl. Dress with:
- juice of 1 lemon
- Olive oil to taste
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parmesan cheese and/or seasoned breadcrumbs
- Roasted nuts (we happened to have cashews, and chopped them)
For that real quarantine vibe, serve with like 4 handfuls of chips and then another few handfuls.