Five things right now: week nine of quarantine

Wow, when I counted weeks just now I was sort of taken aback. It’s hard to believe it’s been nine weeks since this all began.

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Kristin told me this evening that I’ve been surprisingly calm. So many people are falling apart in their own unique ways, which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do right now, but I’m kind of settling in and somehow this whole crisis seems to have removed or minimized many of the things that cause me stress in a normal world. I’m also incredibly lucky to have access to emergency FMLA from 9:00-11:00 each morning, and that has made a tremendously positive impact. This week I feel like I’m in a period of focusing on the wins rather than the struggles. So here they are: Five things right now.

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Kids who do family chores. After starting the kids on a chore chart many weeks ago, and feeling inspired by my friend Ashley who framed homeschooling as the school of life very early on, our kids now know how to clean bathrooms and put their laundry away and make their beds (sloppily, but whatever – mine’s never made) among other things. I won’t oversell this one, they aren’t running around cleaning all day, but they can and will complete chores daily with some reminding and an incentive or two. I’m not sure we ever would have gotten around to making that a part of daily life if it weren’t for this quarantine.

Gardening. Every year I absolutely love going to my favorite greenhouse and loading up on flowers and vegetables and spending a Saturday or Sunday planting all day. Making the yard and patio beautiful as a kickoff to a spring/summer outdoors is so gratifying. This year the focus is clearly more on our own enjoyment of our yard as opposed to making it look nice for others, but there’s something beautiful about that shift. Our greenhouses were allowed to open a few weeks ago and I took Vivi the day before Mother’s Day because she was hell-bent on buying flowers for Mama K. It was a profoundly weird experience, feeling anxious and rushed and nervous the whole time; the kids have barely left the neighborhood in nine weeks, so taking Viv out in a mask felt very very strange.

On Friday I went back in the last 30 minutes of the evening when it wasn’t crowded, bought all of my plants, and then spent all day Saturday planting with the kids. It was just as fulfilling as always and I can’t wait to watch everything grow. I’m reading a lot about how gardening is something many people are turning to as a healing act, and I can understand why. There’s something beautiful about getting your hands in the earth and nurturing life and watching it grow.

The Self-Driven Child. I’m reading this book right now and it’s a really interesting and sensible read. The basic premise is that one of the key ingredients in fostering intrinsic motivation is a sense of control. We all want to feel like we have control over our lives (timely?) and when we make choices for our kids and tell them what to do, we’re denying them that sense of control as well as the opportunity to learn from the experience of making hard choices and learning from them. Kids need to feel like they’re capable of handling life, and they can only develop that ability if we allow them to practice, and that means letting go of our own need for control as well as our anxiety over how things will turn out. Not always easy, but important. I’ve been working to find a good balance of letting go while simultaneously trying to create some structure and responsibility for the kids, as well as figuring out how much I should insist on school work right now. It’s a helpful read.

Someone built this incredible fort out in the woods; we had nothing to do with it.

Karaoke. A lot of people are talking about “pandemic purchases” and this probably counts as ours. A couple of weeks ago I ordered this karaoke microphone, and I cannot overstate what a worthwhile purchase this has been. We have used it SO MUCH. It gets a lot of use in the kitchen: while cooking, after eating, while waiting for the kids to finish eating already. And much to my surprise, Jonah has discovered that he loves karaoke. This is a child who has resisted participating in music class since he was in preschool, but now he asks to borrow a computer and takes the microphone and sings to all of the Billie Eilish songs he can find. He doesn’t sing loudly, but he takes it very seriously. It’s adorable and I love it.

Dreaming about how to make summer magic happen. Since all of our summer plans were wiped out by COVID I’ve been trying to think of how we can make summer feel special. The other night we had a bonfire and s’mores and we told the kids that when it truly gets warm enough overnight we’ll have campouts in the backyard – I’ll cook breakfast outside on the camp stove and everything. Then Kristin and I started talking about how we need to make camp shirts and now I’m way down that rabbit hole. Camp Firefly, Kristin said, and I think that’s just right. We sort of figured we wouldn’t be able to do any real traveling, but right now my sister and brother-in-law and their kids are on a weekend road trip to pick up their new puppy and they’re camping in my parents’ VW camper along the way. It made me wonder if it might be possible for us to rent an RV and find places to stay that don’t involve much in the way of shared facilities. Maybe we can travel and still social distance? I haven’t explored this yet, but I’m feeling inspired and curious. Even if we only have backyard summer camp, I’m determined to make some magic one way or another because that’s what I do.

On Mother’s Day we went on a neighborhood walk and all of the babies had to come along, plus one chicken

And one more thing. Even though I decided weeks ago that I’m done being the assignment gopher for virtual gym (and also maybe music), I have to shout out the teachers who are doing so much to make life seem normal for these kids. This past week Jonah was absolutely thrilled to tell us that Friday would be both pajama day and show-and-tell in his virtual class. He decided to show off a red and purple velvet pillow that we made together when he wanted to learn how to use the sewing machine. He absolutely loves it and when I watch him snuggle it while sucking his thumb it’s like seeing me as a child. Anyway, his teacher is wonderful, all of these teachers are wonderful, and I truly appreciate all of the effort that they’re putting into making this work.

What are your wins? And how do you plan to make magic happen this summer?

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