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.

All the worries

Well, we watched Tiger King on Netflix. It seemed like everyone else was doing it, and I was curious. Let me tell you: no matter what you have heard, or think you know about this series, or can imagine about these people, you have NO idea. Every single episode (there are 7) brought new levels of jaw-dropping shock. I’m still not over it. I might watch it again, just because I require more processing time, although Sir Monkeypants might literally die laughing if I do, because he almost did the first time through – not from laughing at the people in the show, but at me and Gal Smiley for our weird obsession with truly bizarre people and their bizarre world of Big Cats.

Trust me, if you watch it, you’ll get it. It’s a train wreck you can’t look away from.

***

In other news, we continue to be doing just fine, and yet I sometimes find my worry level to be spiraling out of control. I’m not worried about survival, or supplies, or someone getting sick. Well, at least I FEEL like I’m not worried about someone getting sick, but I keep having nightmares about zombies and witches breaking into the house and then creeping up on me in my sleep, and it doesn’t take much to see that dreams of this nature are a thinly veiled reference to COVID-19. As the Captain would say, “Symbolism, am I right?” and then sigh at how his English teachers have ruined his ability to enjoy the world on a surface level.

Really though, I am worried about the kids and how they will remember this time, and how it will change who they are. I feel like every parent is worried about this kind of thing right now. I saw something on Facebook that talked about how very young children will just remember this as a glorious time of getting lots of parental attention and playing all day, but I suspect they will struggle with understanding why they can’t go to the park or see friends, and may remember it as a time full of tension and anger and lots of use of the word NO.

My kids are older and I worry about what will happen to their school years, and whether or not they will still have any friends by the time this is over, and if they will hate us the more they are stuck in the house with their stupid parents. Sir Monkeypants and I went for a walk today with the Captain, who is coping pretty well; he’s had some conference calls with his teachers and also with a group of friends he studies with, and then other open calls on Discord to play video games together. Gal Smiley has been doing a lot of sneaking her phone into her room at night (WE ARE ON TO YOU) and chatting with and messaging friends and so far she seems okay although she’s not too happy with us when we make her get up in the morning (TECHNICALLY – 11:55 is still morning, right?) and do homework. But I think both of them will make it as long as they manage to salvage the semester and we don’t hound them too much about it.

Little Miss Sunshine is our real worry right now. This is totally the worst time to be turning 13, which she will be in a couple of months. Her time at home so far has been full of a lot of stomping, and eye rolling, and very sad sighing. She doesn’t want to do anything with us, but she resists our suggestions to call friends or set up group chats. She doesn’t want to do homework or exercise and will look at us with horror if we suggest either. She doesn’t want to watch a show with us or play a game with us or literally be around us at all, and yet, here she is. She’s stopped saying “love you” when I leave her room at night for tuck-ins.

It’s probably pretty natural 13-year-old behaviour, and frankly, we had it good with the older two, who were very little trouble and still enjoy hanging with us (within reason). But for the Little Miss to be trapped in the house with us while she’s feeling like her family are her least favourite people in the world is probably going to leave a mark, I imagine.

It’s a worry.

In the meantime, we will continue to work our way through the entirety of Netflix (after some time to get over Tiger King) and we have discovered Jackbox games, which allow us all to play silly things that are kind of like Pictionary or Balderdash in a digital way (the main game plays on our TV through our AppleTV, and we each join the game with a phone or tablet as our drawing/typing tool). That’s been cool, and I hope it’s enough to make this not the WORST time of everyone’s life, at least.

Not Cool

Yesterday, on our daily lunchtime walk, with Gal Smiley, a yellow mustang with black stripes drove past us, late 90s model.

Gal Smiley: I love that car. It’s so gorgeous.

Me: Did you know that I almost bought one just like it when I graduated from university?

Gal Smiley: REALLY? Why didn’t you?? You would be SO MUCH COOLER if only you had ever owned something like that.

Me: Well, I did the financial math and it wasn’t worth it so I ended up not buying anything. But I was seriously considering it.

Gal Smiley: WOW. I had no idea you were almost cool.


Today, on our daily lunchtime walk, we fell into a discussion of the “i before e” rule and its exceptions in spelling.

Me: It’s too flaky of a rule. There are a lot of exceptions even in everyday words.

Sir Monkeypants: Really? How do you know?

Me: I saw someone once write an entire paragraph of words that violated that rule in a grammar group I’m in on Facebook.

Gal Smiley: You’re in a grammar group? Forget the mustang. There’s nothing that would ever make you cool.

And scene.

The New Normal

We are settling into a new normal around here. I suppose people can get used to anything. My youngest says she is planning on seeing how long she can go without wearing shoes and so far she’s on track for a world record.

It’s so normal to stay home now, in fact, that it now feels weird to go out. I went to Costco yesterday and the parking lot was as quiet as I have ever seen, which was already an eerie start. Then we had to line up to get in – they are limiting the number of people in the store – and while inside there was tape everywhere to help us respect social distance. At the checkout you had to stand on an X six feet away while staff unloaded your stuff and rang everything up, and then they’d step back and away when you came forward to pay. It felt very awkward and scary, and it was good to get back home and restore the seal on the outside world.

Although then I did worry about how much I should worry about the things I was bringing home. Should I wipe everything down? Should I leave it all in the car for a few hours? Should I wipe down the steering wheel and gearshift in the car? What about the grocery bins and bags?

I decided that going out is going to bring with it some risk and I just have to live with that risk or I am going to go insane. So the groceries came in and got put away and then everyone washed their hands and that’s the best we can do for our collective sanity.

At home, we have become a family that retreats to our respective corners for the day. We are a mixture of introverts and extroverts, but even the extroverts, I guess, get tired of seeing the same people day in and day out. The kids have received some school work from some of their teachers (and to those who have sent assignments, BLESS YOU), so we have put them on a loose schedule of school for at least an hour a day, plus one physical activity, all to be done by dinnertime on a schedule of their choosing. The older kids are doing more like two hours of school work per day, which is good, but so far everyone is giving a hard pushback on physical activity, which is bad. But we are figuring it out.

Usually Sir Monkeypants and I will take a work break around lunchtime to go for a walk outside, and sometimes a kid or two will come with us (but not Little Miss Sunshine, because SHOES). I am so, so grateful that we live in a sparsely populated residential neighbourhood where we can still go for a walk outside with no problem. We’ll pass perhaps 5 to 10 people on our usual loop and we give each other a wide berth and say hello as we pass and that’s it for precautions.

I have been thinking a lot about people in New York City, where many people live in an apartment – how much harder it would be to be trapped literally inside all day in just a few rooms, unable to go for a walk or play in the park because too many people share that outdoor space.

And I have been thinking a lot about India, which is now attempting to put the country on lockdown, but in many places, people live so closely together that social distancing really isn’t possible. I read an article about how many Indians rely on street food to eat as they don’t have a proper kitchen or refrigerator in their home, and now that the street vendors are closed down, they have no access to food. That’s scary, and terrible, and we are so lucky to live here, and be in such a relatively good place.

By the evening, we have dinner together and then we have been watching a lot of movies. Some nights we will play a group video game or try to get better at Rock Band. Some of us go to bed and some of us stay up way too late and some of us sleep in too much and some of us snack all day and some of us rarely eat. It’s working itself out. It’s becoming the new normal.

How are you doing?

One Week Down

It’s been a week that we have all been in the house together, and it’s going fairly well. We’re all adjusting. My friend Annie mentioned on Facebook that for her, this “social distancing” is more like “social amplification” because like me, she usually works from home in silence and solitude all day, and now there are people in her face all the time. I GET IT.

Sir Monkeypants and I are now sharing an office and it was very weird for me at first. We’re still trying to figure out who goes where when one of us has a call to take. Also we are circling around a potential open confrontation about who gets The Good Chair. As someone who works from home, I have been through several desk chairs that have all been rejected for various reasons and now I have one good chair and it is, technically, MY chair, but we shall see. I know Sir Monkeypants is eyeing it as he sits over there in The Chair That Won’t Hold Its Height, having abandoned The Chair That is Too Upright.

One plus of social isolation: the laundry has been much lighter. There are several pairs of PJs for each person and that is about it. I think the Captain is the only one of us who has managed to actually get dressed each day so far, although I have been trying to get out for a walk around lunchtime each day, so I have put on what I call “Technically Clothes” – sweatshirts and yoga pants that basically aren’t any different than my actual PJs except for the area of the store where I bought them. (Personal revelation: pretty much ALL of my wardrobe blurs the line between “clothes” and “pajamas,” meaning I am completely ready for an extended period of being a shut-in.)

On the down side: there are dishes everywhere, all the time. I am running the dishwasher at least once a day. I typically do the dishes just once per day, after dinner, and there are piles and piles. Cups, plates, all over, all the time. Is it too much to ask that everyone just eat out of the box/can/cookie container while standing over the sink like normal people would? SHEESH.

Overall, I think we are starting to work towards a new normal. Today is the first day that I really felt like I could calm down and ease into the way things are, right now. We all have our new daily routines and we’re working them out and moving forward, and so far no one has had a big blow up (YET – we’ll see about the chair situation). So that’s good.

I think my mental health is going to be dependent on two things going forward:

One, minimizing my exposure to social media. I’ve been obsessing too much on Facebook, looking for answers and reassurance when there aren’t any. My friend Nicole said a wise thing on Facebook yesterday – that we will all hear the news eventually, we will get the important gist of things, and there is no need to pounce on every iota of news as soon as it comes out. She is right, and I need to spend more time reading novels and doing puzzles.

Two, remembering that we are all in this together. While on one of our lunchtime walks earlier this week, I was spiraling into a tornado of stress, venting to my husband about lost school terms and lost vacations and lost university plans. And he reminded me that EVERYONE is in the same boat; that this is not a problem that WE have to figure out on our own. The schools and universities and cruise lines will have to make some wide sweeping decisions, and set up new rules and plans, and they will let us know what they decide, and then we will do that. Our kids are not the only ones dealing with crisis, it’s not like we have to find a workaround that works only for them – someone higher up than us needs to find an answer that will work for ALL OF US.

And that was very helpful.

So hope you are doing well, and staying away from too much news, and doing some fantastic puzzles, and scoring The Good Chair for your own personal use.