Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Returning to Normal (ish)

Shelter in Place Day 59

Has it been that long already? How is it that the days can seem so long but weeks and months are passing so quickly. I can’t believe we’re already into the second week of May. I remember walking into work on Monday morning March 16th, knowing it would not be an ordinary day.  At the end of the previous week, many local schools had closed and a friends with ties to the Governor’s office had hinted that a shelter in place order was coming our way. We had an emergency staff meeting to discuss how we would be reducing services and schedules. I was extremely fortunate to be able to work half days, which allowed me to split the homeschooling duties with Husband. I remember the first weekend when all our usual activities were cancelled. Probably for the first time since Kate was a newborn, I went to bed without setting my alarm and enjoyed a particular freedom of being able to wake up whenever Kate allowed us to and the weekend was a blank slate.

I often find that my weekends tend to be consumed with activities outside of our house. 8 o’clock gym class on Saturday morning, come home, get cleaned up and take Kate to her gymnastics class. Grab lunch, go to Safeway, maybe hit the Library on our way home. Unload groceries, throw some laundry into the machine before going to the local pub for dinner. Sunday is very similar; gym, Farmer’s Market, any other shopping related errands, maybe a play date or a birthday party for one of Kate’s friends. Meal prep, face time with my parents, pack lunches, go to bed. We hardly spend any time at home, so initially it was a nice break from the grind and like many others, I saw it as an opportunity to spend more quality time in our own house. I culled and re-organized all our closets, although I think I need to do Kate’s again as I noticed she’s outgrowing some dresses. We tackled our utility closet, which I don’t think had been done since we moved into this house ten years ago, and I suspect another ten years will pass before it receives such attention again. I finally painted the trim from when we had our windows replaced two years ago. At last we started clearing through our much neglected back garden, a project that was on our radar to start this summer, but now seemed more likely to actually get done.

We’re into our ninth week of this routine. I ended up needing to use my PTO to continue my half day schedule, so I started working full days on Monday and Friday. I’m not too worried about consuming my PTO, as I feel we won’t be taking our vacation to Hawaii this year and when we (most likely) will have to do this again in the fall, I think my company may require us to reduce our schedules and take unpaid time off. I found that I had to start setting my alarm again to participate in the morning gym classes via Zoom on the weekends. It’s interesting that under my normal schedule, I never struggled to fit in a WOD when I’ve needed to do a home workout. However, without a structured schedule, I would put it off and it wouldn’t get done. I’ve enjoyed our Zoom classes as I feel I’ve gotten to know fellow members much better by seeing their houses and their creativity with makeshift equipment from using power tools as weights to attaching bags of kitty litter to a broom for a barbell.  Yet, I’m so over home WODs. I miss the rig. I miss being able to drop a heavy barbell on the floor. I really miss the fact that going to the gym was my me-time. While Kate likes spending time with me while I’m doing the class, sometimes she’s a hinderance. She’ll want to be the coach and will become upset if I don’t follow her WOD. Even the cat likes to interrupt me. Our gym added a Pilates Style Core Crusher class, which Tyler thinks is a great time to let me know he wants to be pet non-stop right during the class.

Kate really needs to go back to school. I’m so over homeschooling and my expectations have dropped at a rate we wish COVID-19 cases were falling. I’m flattened the curve of my efforts. One of the hardest things about the beginning of SIP was that it was unseasonably cold and raining, it was finally sunny and warm around week three or four and I started letting her play outside. Our homeschool had a three hour recess. She’s also fairly independent outside and will often use her own imagination to entertain herself, which I think is an essential skill for a child. I go through a vicious circle of feeling that as long as she’s into her own play that does not involve a screen she’ll be fine to freaking out that she’s not doing any “schoolwork” and she’s not going to adapt to the classroom when we go back to “normal”. I’ve been trying to get her to do just two pages in a workbook and it is a huge battle. She stalls. She has to go to the bathroom. She needs a different pencil. She can’t focus on the task at hand and I’m starting to worry that she might be ADHD. It’s easy work for her and I emphasize to her that she could knock in out in five minutes rather than it taking a fucking hour. Today I wondered if it was too easy and I pulled out a K-1 workbook, with which she did a little better. We downloaded ABC Mouse, which she does while Husband is on a work call, and I noticed that she was doing first grade lessons. I asked Husband if he upgraded this, as I believe he set it up at a pre-K level and he hadn’t. So it either recognizes ability, which is a cool feature or she figured out how to access first grade work, which is kind of impressive.

Early on, I read that the SIP was harder on older children who have more of an established social network, while younger children seemed to be enjoying the extra time with Mom and Dad. Yet like so many other aspects, that faded over time. Although she doesn’t come right out and say it, I think Kate really misses her friends. As an only child myself, I can relate to how boring it is to have only grown ups for company, and its these moments that make me wish Kate had a sibling. Albeit, that can be tenuous; my friend in OC reports her boys play nicely 20% of the time and are fighting in the remaining 80%. I have to keep reminding myself of this when her behavior flairs up. Last Saturday, she was especially feisty and I decided that I just had to get her out of the house. She needed a change of scenery beyond our four walls and backyard. I took her with me to Safeway and it did a world of good. Her behavior was much better. Then next day we went to the Farmer Market. I also took her to her school when I paid the May tuition and the director let her play on her school’s playground. While stopping at a Hardware store, we found an open and empty mini-golf course, which she wanted to explore. I paid for a round, but explained that we didn’t want to actually play. Kate got far more enjoyment running around the course, pretending to be a princess who lived in the “castle” (the course had a renaissance theme) than if we had tried to golf. I need to find more little escapes like this.

Her school is started a phased re-opening next week, only for kids of essential workers to keep the numbers down (although a third have dropped enrollment). It will start by only having kids go for three hours a day, then six, then building up to nine. I’m really tempted to bring her back, but also hesitant. Is it the right time, should we wait a little longer? We’re tentatively planning to send her back in June, but her behavior has been so out of control, I think we need to try to send her next week. Tyler has moved from being ‘why are home and why aren’t you petting me?’ To ‘seriously, why are you home?’ He’s stressed and has started meowing at night. I’ve started letting him hang our in the garage having his ‘garage time’ which seems to allow him to chill.

I really need a new pair of shoes, which I prefer to buy in a store than try to navigate sizing during an online purchase. My hair needs to be cut badly and we’ve decided to let Kate’s bangs grow out rather than try to trim them at home. I found the perfect sized containers for my cut carrots at Marshalls and I want to go back and get some more. These are all things I can live without, but it’s making me realise how I took for granted the ease of completing such errands. My eating has been up and down. When this first started and I briefly thought it would only be a two week thing, I stopped tracking my calories and macros as I was snacking much more. Baking has been a great way to keep Kate entertained and teach her math, but it’s led to us eating many more cakes and cookies than we normally would. As with many other things, initially I was keen to try new recipes and excited to have more time to cook dinner at night. Now my enthusiasm has waned and we’ve been eating more processed quick to serve foods. We also eat take out twice a week just to support our local restaurants. Just like when I was breastfeeding, I’ve stayed off the scale until I can really focus on getting back on track.

Then there is such a thing as ‘pandemic pressure’. In the early days, my friend posted a quote that said ‘if you don’t come out of this with a new skill, completed project..etc.. you didn’t lack time, you lacked motivation’. At the time, I nodded in agreement and ‘liked’ the post. Now I feel more like, um, isn’t it enough just to not get the virus and keep your job? Yeah, fuck you. It calls attention to the fact that everyone’s experiences during this pandemic are vastly different. The families of the almost 85,000 dead are morning the loss of a loved one in a very difficult way. First line responders and medical workers are working endless long hard days. Other essential workers who are risking their lives at work each day. Those who are newly unemployed and are worried about paying pills and putting food on the table. This morning I cut open a tube of lotion to use the last little bit that was stuck to the sides. It’s something I’ve been doing for years after hearing my grandfather tell stories about living through the Great Depression. It hit me that those memories are going to become a new reality. Which makes me feel really guilty and privileged to express these next thoughts. Even as we discuss returning to normal, there’s a part of me that starts to feel nostalgic about this time. As challenging as it’s been at times, I feel so blessed to have this bonus time with Kate while she’s at this age. I’ve enjoyed having a reduced work load and being able to come home and spend time outside. I don’t think I’ll have this opportunity again until (should I make it) I’m near retirement.

There are other things I’ll appreciate about living through the pandemic. The sense of community, the way we’ve identified who is essential. The way we’ve been checking in on one another and the creative ways to connect. I hope Zoom virtual happy hours continue. I hope bars keep selling ‘to go’ cocktails in mason jars. I like shopping with bring it to your trunk service. I’d like to see some of the positive influences that came out of this crisis carry over as we settle into what everyone is hearing as our ‘new normal’. Social distancing is still going to be present. In the Bay Area, we wear masks everywhere. You have to queue to be amount the 40 shoppers allowed in Safeway at a time (which makes for a nicer shopping experience once you get in). Despite the protection from chlorine as a disinfectant, I’m not sure I’ll get back to competitive swimming any time soon.

Sigh. We all want to get back to some degree of normalcy, even if it is a new normal.