Scenes from Shopping This Weekend

This weekend I did a few errands. In general I try not to shop more than once every 10 days or so, and only go to one store. But after nine weeks at home, we had a few other needs and needed to go to a few places, so I sucked it up and did so.

And man, is there ever a weird combination of stuff happening out there right now.

Ever since the Ontario government announced limited lifting of the restrictions starting this past weekend, there’s been a huge range of reactions. Some people are relieved, and feel that the worst is over, and that it’s back to business as usual. Some people think this is way too early and are still on full lockdown mode and perhaps trying to avoid the outside world even more so than usual, now that some people are mixing it up.

At the Walmart…it was totally game on, business as usual. I saw very few people in masks. Families were shopping as a group with their kids, many people were in couples or even bigger groups. The staff were manning the door but were doing little to stop the flow of people coming in, or to restrict larger groups of shoppers. It wasn’t exactly crowded inside but it was much busier than it had been in the past few weeks. The garden centre was open and the staff there had no protective gear at all, and people were free to browse and mingle in the close aisles as they picked out their plants.

At the Superstore…I saw more people in masks, perhaps a third or so. They were still controlling the checkouts with a single socially distanced lineup. But there were lots of couples and family groups shopping together, and at the “sterilize your own cart” station, they were out of paper towels, so I guess that’s over now.

At the Sobey’s…I don’t often shop there, I had to go to get just a couple of specific brand-name things the Superstore does not carry. So I wasn’t super familiar with their process, and got barked at several times by the staff for entering the wrong way, and taking a cart from the wrong place, and lining up wrong. But in a way that was actually reassuring – they still care, and are still trying to keep everyone separate and keep everything clean.

At the Home Hardware…I waited in a socially-distanced line for about a half hour while the staff member at the front managed the number of people in the store. He was great – he asked everyone what part of the store they needed to visit, then only let one or two people in each area at once, all the while keeping it positive and upbeat. I just needed one thing from here, and he directed me straight to it. At the checkout, the cashier noticed that there was another man standing nearby waiting for something so she asked me to come behind the counter and take a different route out of the store so I wouldn’t have to walk directly past the man.

At the local nursery near my house…I waited two hours in a socially-distanced line up (and got a pretty awful sunburn) to give my prepared list of plants and fertilizers to a staff member behind a gate, who went and filled my order for me, then did a contact-less transfer of goods with tap-only for payment. I was literally the only person there in a mask, but we were all outside and spaced apart, so maybe it didn’t matter that much. The owners of the nursery made it clear that some members of their staff were immune-compromised and so no one would be allowed in to just browse around, but this was news to many people in line, who said that other nurseries were allowing general browsing and business as usual.

And that was shopping this weekend. I wore a mask everywhere and I got a mixture of reactions – other people in masks tended to give me space, people in larger family groups with no masks tended to act like I wasn’t there when reaching around me for things on shelves or letting their kids dance at my feet in the checkout line.

It’s a weird time. I know everyone is trying to figure out what is right for themselves and their family and society and it seems like there are a lot of big questions with no answers right now. I know that the plan cannot be
“we just don’t get the virus indefinitely” but also “everyone getting it at once” is not a great option either, so perhaps this combination of some places opening up, some places still locking it down will work out to a kind of balance.

For us, for now, we are doing well just being at home. We are able to work and go to school and get the things we need with just one of us leaving the house. I can wear a mask and that’s not a huge deal, so I will. I will try to limit my contact with others and my exposure in order to put off getting the virus until it’s better understood and treatment options are more accessible and advanced.

That’s our plan, for now at least, What’s yours?

Now is not the time to get sick, or cranky

Last week I broke a tooth by biting down on something hard. I felt it the minute I did it – there was a literal “CRACK” sound and instant pain. Since then I haven’t been able to bite down on that side so I’ve been eating only soft foods and things cut into very very tiny pieces.

Here in Ottawa there is one emergency dentist that has been allowed to remain open, and I called them and we went back and forth, and my own dentist got involved too, and eventually they all decided that a) the tooth cannot be saved because the break appears to be above the gum line, and b) it qualifies for emergency treatment. So I’ll be having it extracted next week as a small dental surgery.

It’s really not a good time to be sick, is it? As far as things go, this is not too serious and I don’t even have to go to a hospital or anything. But finding care was hard, because of the shutdown; and there is worry about exposure, both for me and for the staff that is going to help me out. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have something more serious, like cancer, that would require extensive medical care at this time; or something serious but deemed “optional,” like the need for a hip replacement, which has perhaps been indefinitely postponed; or something emergent, like a food allergy exposure, that would require you to rush to emergency and hope someone is there who can help you, which trust me, I am praying does not happen any time in the next few months to one of our allergy kids or my allergy husband.

Anyway, my sympathy is with anyone who requires emergent medical care at this time, because it’s one more thing on top of everything else to cause severe stress and fear, and that is not a happy thing.

Speaking of not being happy, over here at our house we are in a bit of a cranky downswing, where everyone is kind of tired of everyone else and craving some alone time and space. Actually, perhaps that is just the adults, as our kids are getting along fairly well – almost too well, as lately, by the evening hours, they have devolved into near-hysteria levels of humour. It’s kid of weird, they will get on a roll where EVERYTHING is hilarious, like they are drunk, and if we try to watch TV or a movie or something, they must snark-watch it like they are on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, causing more intense fits of hysterical laughter, which is annoying to some. Rather like being the lone sober person at a party full of stupid drunks.

It’s nice that they are having fun with each other. And I’m grateful I will soon be getting some medical care. So let us focus on the positive, and perhaps make some cookies today, and try not to be cranky. At least I will.

Ennui

I have moved out of the weepy part of the pandemic into the ennui part, it would seem. I’m super busy – lots of work, lots of cleaning, lots of cooking. But the sheer repetitiveness of it all is really starting to wear me down. I had a few days this week where I just didn’t want to get out of bed to face the same dishes/coffee/work/dinner cycle, in the same place, with the same faces, on the same schedule, for one more bloody day.

However did Caroline Ingalls manage it?

I do have a few things that are keeping me sane. One is that we totally kondo-ed our office, which is a small 10 x 10 foot room that Sir Monkeypants and I now share and spend 80% of our waking time in. For years it has been like an episode of Hoarders – piles of paper all over the place, and boxes full of mysterious jumbles of items, that you had to snake your way through to get to your little cave-like desk area. It was too overwhelming to even think about dealing with.

But then last weekend Sir Monkeypants casually said, “I’d like us to tidy up the office a little, so I don’t go totally insane in the many upcoming weeks I may still have to work there” (not in those exact words). He is the “ideas guy” in our relationship and I am the “manic list-making work-until-drop make-it-happen guy” and so the next thing I knew, I was in the office cleaning out Just One Drawer.

Four days later we had 10 bags of shredded paper, plus three giant boxes of other recycling, plus four bags of garbage and another box of donate items. Which is now a bit of a problem, as we are supposed to be limiting our garbage and recycling as much as possible to decrease the load on our garbage people, and anywhere we could donate stuff is closed, so it might take several months to actually empty the garage, but WORTH IT.

Now I can spin and spin and spin in the office, with my arms out like a little girl in a golden field of flowers, and it is delight. I am already giving the side-eye to the tupperware drawer and the kids’ sock drawers and the sewing scraps bag. YOU’RE NEXT.

Cleaning that stuff out gave me a surprising amount of joy – I think it was just the focus of having a concrete project to do, plus the fact that was something DIFFERENT. I actually LOOKED FORWARD to setting aside work around 3 p.m. each day this week so I could clean stuff out.

This is where we are now. Ennui, am I right?

In other news, despite this being week 8 of lockdown, it has become apparent that my children will never, ever learn to load the dishwasher. It’s not that they don’t try, it’s that they just cannot seem to understand that full-size dinner plates cannot go in the tiny prong areas meant for saucers, or that putting several bowls in the same slot means they will not get clean, or that every single utensil they use does not have to go just the front-most square of the utensil area.

But on the plus side, I was doing some laundry today, and I was up early so I’d sorted it and left it in bins by the machines before the kids got up. I figured I would have to do an extra load later in the day of their jammies, after I forced them to get dressed around 4 p.m., but to my shock, they all three got up, saw the bins, changed immediately, and added their PJs to the bins.

MIRACLE.

I guess these little wins are going to have to serve as drama around here, and perhaps if I make a bigger deal out of it, it’ll snap me out of the constant drab mood and blah frame of mind. Perhaps I will use some of our precious, precious flour to make some celebratory Laundry Brownies, and we will eat them on the office floor where we can admire the amazing amount of space, and feel something like the spark of being alive again.

Just Like That

I’ve been talking a big game about not trying to think too far into the future, and I guess I’ve been doing that, but at the same time, I was mentally preparing in the background for this to go on for a long time. Possibly a long, long time.

But just yesterday, it seemed like everything was suddenly turning around. Quebec announced that its public schools would go back mid-May, and that some businesses would be allowed to open. Now everyone is looking to Ontario – who have already announced a shutdown of all schools and businesses through to May 31 – to lighten up, already.

It’s really hard to say if this is a good thing or a bad thing or what. I guess time will tell.

But the very idea that my kids might go back to school sometime before the end of this school year was really shocking. I was just totally in the mode where I figured we’d be running with this routine until July, at least, and probably all summer. I wrote to my aunt yesterday and talked about how all our summer plans were cancelled and how there wouldn’t be any concerts or plays or museum visits or trips out for ice cream, but that I was okay with that.

But now maybe I don’t have to be? And we can maybe do stuff? With other people?

I have to say, this whole event has been a ROLLER COASTER of emotion. I can’t even figure out how I feel about the news that we might be turning a corner. Am I happy about it? Sad? Nervous? Scared?

People, I just don’t know. Probably all of the above.

One thing is clear though: I was extremely buried in the trenches, fully into the whole idea of hunkering down for The Long Winter, and was totally unprepared with any kind of emergence plan. I doubt we will rush to return to regular life, so now I’m faced with a zillion new decisions and rules to decide about and boundaries to set.

Okay, here is one thing I definitely do feel: overwhelmed. It’s very tempting to stick my head back in the sand and declare us to be a 21st century Wilder family, planning to live alone and isolated in the Big Woods forever and ever. It feels like the easiest decision right now.

Why can’t everything just be easy? SIGH.

This is the weepy part

I appear to have entered the phase of quarantine where I just weep all the time.

I’m not sure if I am sad, or frustrated, or just tired – probably all three. And we have been watching Grey’s Anatomy here, and we are up to season 5 when some key characters get sick and others die, and it is not helping.

But I’ve definitely been emotional.

The other day I was cleaning and I found some pants that are too small for me now and I was going to give them to my sister next time I saw her, which is usually once a month or so. But of course now they have been sitting in my living room for several weeks instead.

I dropped her an email and asked her if she’d like me to porch-drop them for her the next time I was out taking the Captain for driving practice, and she replied and said sure. Plus she added that I could bring a folding chair, plus one for the Captain, and maybe we could sit outside in her driveway, several feet apart, and chat for a bit.

And I cried and cried. Because the thought of seeing her, but having to keep 10 feet back or whatever, just seemed like TOO MUCH. And the thought of NOT seeing her for many more months was also TOO MUCH. And the thought of actually seeing her in person, even from 10 feet away, was also TOO MUCH.

It’s all a little too much, right now.

The very next day I was on my usual lunchtime walk with Sir Monkeypants and we saw a neighbour of ours, a close friend of mine (HI BRENDA!) who had just got out of her car and was heading into her garage. We were still several houses away so she didn’t notice us, but I booked it down the street anyway because I thought OMG, I COULD SAY HI TO BRENDA and then she went inside without seeing us and I didn’t get to say hi to Brenda and I TEARED UP ABOUT IT. Over a possible split second interaction with someone.

A couple of days after that, we were walking again and saw the mom of a friend of Gal Smiley’s who is seriously SUCH a nice person, walking with her older son. She called hello to us from across the street and asked how we were doing, and we did the usual weird, but fine and then we asked her how SHE was, and she was remarkably cheerful when she told us that her younger son (Gal Smiley’s friend) and her husband were in Hungary, because they had gone to visit family in early March and then become stuck there, and now may be stuck there for several months. She pointed out they were with family and had everything they needed and her son was even able to do his schoolwork because it was all online, and everything was fine, but I still cried about it, because now is not the time you want your husband and your kid to be halfway around the world for who knows how long.

I could go on and on like this – everything is upsetting and moving and terrible and sad right now. I am hoping this is a phase. I want to say, I’m sure this will pass but the truth is, we have never been here before, we don’t know what will and won’t “pass,” we don’t know what is and isn’t normal.

All we can do is ride the wave, and deal with one thing at a time, and try to have tissues within arm’s reach at all times.

If you’re in the weepy phase too – I’m here for ya, lovelies.

Online Games

What do you think are good games for playing over a video chat?

Sir Monkeypants and I recently did a Trivial Pursuit night with two other couple friends of ours. It worked pretty well. One couple had the board and set up a phone pointing at it, while dialing into our Zoom call on a laptop as well, so we could all see them and see the board. We each had our own die to roll at home, and the other couple also had the same TP game so were able to share in asking questions. We all brought our own dessert and beverages of choice.

(Also: we lost. But we didn’t embarrass ourselves, so we’re calling that a win, and we’ll see how we do at the rematch scheduled for tomorrow.)

It worked fairly well, except that there can’t be any side chit-chat because the Zoom tries to focus on just one person talking at a time and when we’re all talking at once it’s hard, so you had to sit and wait quietly when it wasn’t your turn. But otherwise, success!

I started to think of other games that might work remotely like this. I couldn’t come up with many, so I thought I’d throw it out there for ideas.

Things that could work if everyone has their own copy of the game:

  • Yahtzee
  • Battleship
  • Guess Who
  • Snakes and Ladders (head to head speed races, perhaps?)
  • Cranium, maybe?
  • Bananagrams, maybe, if everyone used a smaller letter stockpile, and played until their own letters were gone?

Things that could work if one person/group has the game, and the others just instruct the home team on how to move their pieces:

  • Chess
  • Connect 4
  • Scattegories
  • Pandemic
  • Forbidden Island
  • Boggle

Okay, that’s all I can think of. I know there’s others where you can maybe all play together online through an app, like Scrabble and Ticket to Ride, but I was looking for things that could be a little more interactive and have a little more human component.

Got any other ideas of games that might work remotely?

Keeping it clean

I assume we are all imagining, at all times, that we have COVID-19. Every time I cough in the night I assume this is it, I am infected. I immediately start planning for total isolation and making mental lists of everything else in the house I have touched in the past 24 hours and dithering over whether or not it is safe to take Advil.

Then I usually wake up in the morning feeling fine and carry out my business. But still! Every cough, or every time I feel a little chilly, or every time I have a hint of headache, I immediately jump to Worst Case Scenario.

Despite this, I feel like I could be doing a lot better at keeping our house disinfected. For my own sanity, I have only been moderately careful when grocery shopping. Of course I try not to touch my face and I wash my hands frequently after getting home and putting things away. But I haven’t gotten myself a face mask yet, and I don’t wipe down the car or doorknobs or grocery bins, and I don’t let stuff sit untouched for a day before putting it away, or anything like that. I occasionally feel a bit of panic over this but I found that I was panicking MORE when I was actually trying to disinfect everything all the time so I’m just going with this for now.

(I am, however, interested in hearing your own personal shopping protocols and methods and seeing if any will work for me without making me spin out of control. Comment away!)

In other cleanliness news, like most of us I am now cleaning my own house, as our service is suspended for now. I have to say…I don’t mind it. It’s a ton of work, and takes a whole day every two weeks, so it’s not like I don’t appreciate someone else taking care of this for us. But I get a lot of satisfaction from standing in the middle of a clean house and knowing I did this, I made it clean. It’s very immediate in a way that my regular work is not. I’m even considering continuing to self-clean when this is all over, but we’ll see how long my resolution lasts once I lose my Cleaning Audience and their Exclamations of Extreme Appreciation (i.e. my husband).

One thing that comes from cleaning your own house is that you really dig into those areas that don’t get enough regular attention. We have two full bathrooms in this house, one that Sir Monkeypants and I share with the Captain, and one that the girls use. For at least a year now, the girls’ bathroom has had a funky smell that I have been unable to locate and eliminate despite many sniff tests. I have bought every kind of spray and room freshener possible and some of them can cover the smell, sometimes, but mostly it just lingers there, all the time, to my extreme frustration.

Last week while cleaning their bathroom I noticed that there was mould growing on the grout between the shower tiles. EUREKA, I thought. I ordered a super powerful bleach-based mould cleaner (because I am not the type to mess around with home cleaning solutions, BRING ME CHEMICALS GODDAMMIT), and picked it up an hour later from our Home Hardware which was doing curbside pickup. Then I came home and sprayed the crap out of the shower and the mould vanished BEFORE MY EYES and OH MY HEAVENS, the bathrom smells AMAZEBALLS.

It was a major win, is all I’m saying, and couldn’t we all use some of that right now? Yes, yes we can.

Getting Comfy

Have you noticed that clothing retailers have pivoted to fully embrace the stay-at-home mentality? My Instagram feed is now chock full of ads from Old Navy showcasing their flowing, elastic waisted pants; or from Joe Fresh announcing that all jammies are on sale; or for kickstarters for revolutionary bras that involve no underwire. They are Leaning In, is what I’m saying.

Sir Monkeypants and I have a running joke here that, depending on what kind of conference calls we have during the day, we should choose between the “work track pants” or the “casual track pants.” The dividing line is pretty slim, let me tell you. I suspect that once we move out of this crisis, I am going to need all new jeans because nothing with any kind of structure is going to fit me anymore. Perhaps, as we move forward to a new world where no one ever shakes hands and half the population works from home, we will also embrace the wearing of track pants as our standard business attire. A girl can dream!

We are generally trying to work with what we have, clothing-wise, because although I appreciate that these businesses are trying to keep going and keep their employees, it still seems weird to ask someone to leave their home and expose themselves to the world just so I can order new track pants. But we are facing a small issue in that both the Captain and Little Miss Sunshine continue to grow, and both of them are now suffering from what I call Highly Exposed Ankles. So should we order them new pants? Or just have them pull up their socks? For now we are hoping to just shift them into shorts and then we’ll see where we’re at in September. I suppose they could both borrow clothes from me and Sir Monkeypants, although they are both so skinny we could probably make them TWO pairs of pants from every ONE of ours, by cutting them in half and making a single pair out of each leg. SIGH.

And speaking of Working With What We Have, one thing we do NOT have is a lawn mower, and that is becoming a minor concern. We have a service to cut our lawn because both Sir Monkeypants and I are allergic to grass, and I love our service, and I miss our service, which has been classified “non-essential” and as such is on mandatory shut down. We’re still early in the season so no one on our street has noticed yet but I’m guessing that by the time our lawn is a foot high, our neighbours are going to start giving us the side eye as they walk their dogs past the front of our property. Perhaps someone on our street will be inspired to just come and cut it? What are our thoughts on hiring a local teen to come cut it, if we pay him via e-transfer and he works alone? I think that could maybe work.

In the meantime, we will continue to stretch what we have and make do with Whatever Works, which only adds to the whole weird feeling this entire event is giving me. At least I feel like I am learning to focus only on what we really need, versus what we want, and ideally that will carry forward no matter what the future brings. We’re making do, and it’s going just fine.

Schedule Free

It’s hard to say if the holiday weekend was the cause or not, but I feel like we have lost all pretense of a daily schedule around here. The kids have started sleeping in later and later – for school work purposes, I wake them at 10 a.m. on weekdays now, but on weekends we’re lucky to see them before noon. As a result they’ve started staying up later, too. Last night the Little Miss was up until almost 11 p.m. with me watching Grey’s Anatomy and then the boys stayed up past 2 a.m. watching Justified and it feels like everything is just the wild west out here.

Also different: my youngest is now free to watch just about anything. This past weekend we binge-watched both seasons of the horror TV show Scream on Netflix and then we moved on to Grey’s, which she has previously been banned from watching. Now I just shrug when my son recommends we put on a Quentin Tarantino flick over dinner. Whatever, man. Everything is horror, now.

I had to go grocery shopping on Saturday and these forays out of our home fortress are feeling weirder and weirder all the time. Saturday was especially crazy as, due to the Easter holidays, our stores were closed on the Friday and the Sunday. For the past few weeks I’ve been heading to the store for 8 a.m. on Saturdays, when it opens to non-seniors, and I’ve just walked in, got our stuff, got out.

Easter weekend Saturday: I arrived at 8 a.m. and there were already about 100 people in line.

It was pretty crazy. Luckily I was wearing a winter coat, hat, and gloves. Lots of other people clearly had thought they’d just “dash out” to the store and were only wearing hoodies. I got a lot of envious looks and I actually wondered if I was going to have to fight people off to defend my gloves. Eep.

There was a very upbeat and cheerful young man monitoring the line. He was letting in five shoppers at a time, in five minute intervals, and stopping any couples that tried to go in together. He got yelled at. A LOT. I mean, on one hand, I get it – everyone was cold and scared and tired. But seriously, people, he is like a TEENAGER working a minimum wage job where he’s exposed to tons of germs every day and STILL keeping it positive and you want to yell at him? NOT COOL.

Anyway, I got just about everything we needed, and got home, where my children looked at me with envy because, as Gal Smiley said to me the other day, “I forget what the inside of a store looks like.”

I had luckily been hoarding Easter candy for a few weeks, because by the time I went on Saturday, the candy section was cleaned out, so we were still able to have our egg hunt. I think my kids are getting a little old for it – the Captain actually said it was fine if we didn’t hide any eggs for him this year (our eggs are colour coded due to allergies and each kid finds eggs of their own colour). But I went ahead with it anyway because I felt like we needed SOME kind of celebration, no matter how small, and I do think the kids really enjoyed it.

Then I spent all day making an elaborate dinner of many family favourites, even though it was just the five of us, and that was great. We called family and did the best we could to have the best holiday we could, and it was actually a really nice day.

I told my mom while on the phone with her this weekend that I’m trying very hard to just take things one day at a time, and not spiral out into a frenzy of trying to figure out a plan for the entire future right now. This weekend went well for that – I’m learning to live in the now. Hope you had a lovely holiday weekend, too.

The Little Things

We have reached a point where some little things, some small services, are starting to be felt for their absence. One thing that everyone is slowly noticing is that no one is able to get a decent haircut anymore. We are lucky in that we do have a good set of clippers in the house, as Sir Monkeypants has been buzzing his own hair for several years now, and we even have a pair of haircutting scissors that came in the same set.

I have some very limited experience trimming the Captain’s long hair, which he has kept one-length-shoulder-length since he cut it back from waist-long back in grade 9. So we’ll keep on doing that for him.

But us girls – this is new territory. Both my daughters have complex, geometric cuts created by their funky hairdressers that have a lot of tattoos and are much, much cooler than me. Last week, Gal Smiley finally caved and let me try my hand at her cut (an undershave all around with a floppy bit on top) and it was okay. Not great – definitely not tattoo worthy – but okay. I think we’re both willing to have another crack at it as needed.

Little Miss Sunshine has decided to just let hers (a kicky bob that’s shorter in the back, with swishy bits in the front) grow out indefinitely until she can access someone with tattoos again. Probably a wise choice.

I plan to join her, which combined with my greying hair (I definitely picked the absolute best time to grow it out!), no doubt will eventually mean I have a great shaggy bush of Macbeth-witches-style hair. At least then I’ll have a reason to corral everyone into doing an at-home Shakespeare production, just like in the post-apocalyptic novel, Station Eleven.


It’s finally starting to get a little warmer, although more snow looms in the forecast. But we took the small amount of sunshine we had on the weekend to heart, and got our bikes out, because it felt really freeing and hopeful after being trapped in the house for so long.

We went for our first bike ride and I had my favourite gloves with me, purple knit gloves with a leather palm. Eventually it got warm and I took them off and put them in my pockets and over the course of the ride, they both fell out. When I went to get them the next day from my jacket they were gone.

Then, this Sunday morning when I was doing our weekly groceries, I passed one of them lying in the road by our house. I immediately pulled over and picked it up, cooing soft words of comfort and hoping it hadn’t been driven over too many times.

I was going to walk our bike route as soon as I got home from the store to look for the other one, but on the way home I took a different way and lo! There was the second glove at the side of the road on a side road near our house!

So I am grateful that in these Touch-Nothing times, no one wanted to move or throw away a soggy glove that was littering the road. I washed them and now they are both doing well.

Also: Sir Monkeypants highlighted to me the fact that my spring jacket has pockets that ZIP UP. So I’m ready for my next bike ride, whew.