I just found this photo on my phone because we share a cloud and that makes mysterious pics appear for me on my smartphone. Technology makes zero sense to me – perhaps I’ve mentioned that in previous blogs? Anyways, I found this photo of my three kiddos and our best bud from NYC, Matt, and it just summed up so much about this past crazy week. You know those activity books our kids love, the ones where you have to find a bunch of stuff that makes no sense in the picture, like the picture is of fairies in an enchanted forest but there’s a random tube of ordinary toothpaste on the thatched roof of a tiny magical fairy hut? That’s how this photo seems to me. Yes, this is our living room being the ordinary living room it is but there are so very many things that don’t make sense in our living room. Namely:
- What is Matt doing giving a tutorial on cleaning products to my weirdly engaged children on a work/school day?
- Why are there So. Many. Harsh. Chemicals on my dining room table? With yet more at Matt’s feet? Where did my 7th Generation hippie stuff go?
- How did someone convince my kids to write a task list for cleaning the kitchen and living room? In cursive?
- Who gave Matt the Guinness in a photo timestamped 1:14:46 PM Monday, even if he is Irish and it was the day before St. Patrick’s Day? And was this his first one of the day?
- When did Michaela get big enough to wear my favorite fleece? (OK, that has nothing to do with anything and yet somehow is EVERYTHING.)
Are these people actually planning to clean said kitchen and living room with these products? And will I be helping? For years one of my happiest indulgences has been having my home professionally cleaned. I am the tidiest human I know with a place for everything and everything in its place (like a museum curator kind of, with a touch of Mary Poppins), but I suck at cleaning. And yet, here we are.
Because now, everything is different. And now, within the context of Covid-19, every element of this picture oddly makes sense. Like Matt, let’s start there. Matt, a writer, moved up here from Brooklyn for the long haul a week ago because the city was getting more and more stressful with this pandemic, and we have a guest cottage, plus he’s like a third parent to my kids (who are technically on Spring Break and won’t return to school even online until April 1st. In other news, for the next several weeks we have an equal number of adults and kids on our property! Bonus!).
And those yucky chemicals? Bring ‘em.
Having spent my entire adult life in a state of organic bliss, I want officially nothing to do with this virus. Also, it turns out I freakin’ love the smell of Pine-Sol. But seriously, my in-laws, whom we adore, live just through the woods (like I could almost egg their house from my porch), and we are pretty intensely committed to staying healthy and keeping them healthy too. Which means extreme social distancing for my family and, until we know we don’t have an as-of-yet asymptomatic case of Covid-19 from last week’s lack of social distancing, trying to sanitize every surface in the house.
Just an ethical and environmental side note here: I think it’s both pretty obnoxious and also not epidemiologically sound for my family to stay put during this pandemic but ask that our beloved cleaner still show up here weekly. So our solution: our family will deep clean two rooms per day, whilst we still pay our house cleaner weekly whether or not she comes. Why? Because we can, and this is a particularly brutal time economically for people in the service industry. (So if you can, please do continue to pay the people who depend on you.)
Moving on, the kids’ list of tasks? Well, they always have had their chores, such as putting laundry away daily, making their beds, cleaning the chicken coop, cleaning up meals, etc. But we haven’t ever asked them to clean the house, so they’re going into this somewhat blindly. (Yes, I realize they are lucky, as are we.) Luckily, Michaela loves herself a fancy, cursive list, and even more fortunately, Matt had the bandwidth and calmness to walk through how each product can be used for each cleaning task. (Cheers to mid-westerners whose mothers made their whole lot of boys clean the house each week growing up! Kind of an ideal pandemic long term guest, wouldn’t you say? And he’s great at pickling veggies. #Winning) So on our pretty specific daily schedule, 1-2:30pm is now house-clean-o’clock while we listen to Gloria Gaynor and Nirvana. The place is sparkling, and the process takes our mind off this surreal life we’re all navigating.
The Guinness? Well, Matt, Jon, and I created some rules around drinking.
One drink with lunch and one with dinner. Is this excessive? Yup. You know what else is excessive? Becoming homeschooling, housecleaning, working-from-home, socially isolating adults in one fell swoop. And the lunchtime drink is Guinness which is hardly a drink at all everyone, so calm down.
Lastly, my teenager in my fleece. Actually it is relevant. Michaela is older now which means that, yes, she can fit into my clothes, and that, more meaningfully, being stuck in the middle of the woods with her mom, her dad, her Matt, her little brothers, and her grandparents presents some unique challenges. We’re all really close, and for that I’m as ever grateful. But she needs contact with her peers and friends somehow, and her best buds don’t FaceTime much. So she’s doing the Snapchat thing, which I hate but so be it. Jon and I have held off on any social media until Michaela turns 14, despite nearly all of Michaela’s friends having social media and her wishing we would relent. (No judgement here, teen parents; we just wanted to wait as long as possible for our own ease and then deferred to the recommended age from Silicon Valley.) But here Michaela is, six months shy of 14, and kind of peerless for an undetermined length of time. And social media is just that: social. So happy early birthday Michaela! And if someone can explain a streak to me, and why it matters, and also why teens make duck faces, I’d be so psyched.
Even the boys now have one hour of non-academic screen time a day now. Reid finally was allowed to get Minecraft (we hadn’t yet done the video game thing), and Booch is playing some sort of cute animated online games and watching shows. Honestly, come to think of it, I have no idea how he used his screen time this week. The whole point is, everyone gets their own version of a lunch Guinness, right? Something that feels special and fancy and personal as our world gets smaller and smaller these days. AND full confession here: I haven’t watched TV in years. Whenever someone says “Have you ever seen…?” I stop them after “seen,” with “nope.” It’s not a principle thing – more like a commitment issue. But, let me tell you, The Good Place is awesome!!!!!!!!! Why didn’t you people tell me to watch it? Oh right, like seven zillion people did.
So the times they are a-changin.
Not forever. None of this is forever. But for now, yup my kids are taking online classes for fun and then will attend virtual classes soon when their school resumes. I am writing this while listening to the sweet, soothing sounds of Reid having target practice with a BB gun because, apparently, Covid-me is not gunphobic. My kids are allowed to bake desserts each day, full of actual sugar, and we enjoy them over nightly board games without me stressing about sweets. Weirder yet, my kids argue over who gets to mop the floor (desirable) and who has to dust the baseboards (not desirable). Oh, and now I wash my hands 7000 times a day which is exactly 1000x more than the 16,030 days of my life before this pandemic.
And then there’s the myriad things for which I am not just accepting but actually grateful, aside from just my lunch beer and new binge worthy show:
- that we can still get outside and enjoy birds and trees and kicking a ball;
- that I feel loved and safe in my home (and if you don’t, please go here for resources);
- that I am with my kids;
- that we have access to food (and even about eight rolls of toilet paper!);
- that there’s a forced break in the busy-ness of our lives, and in that break, my children now have allocated times at home to be creative, to read in bed, to play music together, to teach each other new sports, to play boardgames, to see their grandparents, to cuddle with our pets, to just slooooooooow down;
- that my Baby Botanica team keeps checking in and “showing up” even from afar;
- that I get time alone to go on a hike and that Jon finally has time for his daily jogs;
- that we have space for a beloved friend to be part of our family for a long while.
Most of all, I’m grateful that I – that we – have our health.
So Covid-19, you crazy brute, please get a grip. (I mean, Tom Hanks and Idris Elba???) I, like everyone, am frightened by this virus’ inevitable peak (unless people just stay the hell home and flatten the curve but even so, we were late to the social distancing party) and fret about someone I love becoming ill. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about the extreme misfortune of opening a wellness center of all things in the middle of a global pandemic. And I despair about the unfairness of having to close the doors to a space where so many gathered to feel well and communal, when people need just that more than ever. If I’m being honest, in my bleakest moments, I worry I won’t be able to regain the amazing momentum Baby Botanica had just generated before being forced to shut down for a while. And then I lose some sleep wondering if and how I’ll be able to attend births as a doula in April and May for clients I have grown to love. Honestly, my heart is pounding just getting into the weeds of this whole mess.
But now I’ll stop. I’ll breathe in the sweet, sweet smell of Lysol Clean & Fresh multi-purpose cleaner emanating from a desk that was scrupulously cleaned by my delightfully flexible, adaptable, trusting, and resilient children who are graciously adjusting to this new abnormal. I just breathe in. And then breathe out.
There you go. That’s it.
From my home to your home, be and stay well. Enjoy those screens, those special treats, those untimed times outside. And I’ll check in next week. From my home, with you in your home. Please.