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.

At Home

We’re doing fine.

We are lucky, in that our kids are old enough not to require constant supervision and entertainment.

We are lucky, in that both my husband and I can work from home.

We are lucky, in that we have plenty of food to last a couple of weeks, at least, plus oodles of content services and high bandwidth internet to keep us all busy.

No one is sick or feeling unwell. We are all here together, and we are all safe.

I am trying not to worry, but as my friend Shawna says, some of us are just worriers by nature, and now of all times is – in the words of Woody from Toy Story – the Perfect Time to Panic. But my husband keeps reminding me that we are fine and lucky and well, and although I am anxious for answers and deadlines and finite solutions, I must learn to just live day-by-day and see what happens.

It’s weird, but I’m getting used to it. I read once that human beings can get used to anything, in a surprisingly short period of time.

So I am fine, and we are fine, and hoping everyone else is, too.

Zombie Apocalypse or Bonus Vacation?

It is very strange and unusual times we are living in, isn’t it? I have spent the last several weeks trying not to panic in any way about COVID-19, a.k.a. the coronovirus. I didn’t run out and buy a bunch of toilet paper or stock up on canned goods or anything, I just tried to stay chill.

But it is funny how panic begets panic. After they announced yesterday that Ontario schools would all close for two full weeks following March Break, there was mass panic in the streets and grocery stores were overrun. My sister called yesterday to say that she had just been to the local Superstore and shelves of soup and pasta were literally empty, and the line up to pay snaked back to the dairy section.

We were having a casual evening at home because it was Captain Jelly Belly’s 17th birthday. SEVENTEEN. It sounds so grown up, don’t you think? And suddenly he does seem older, his voice is deeper, he’s a scant quarter inch taller than me, and pretty much his adult self now. But still, we wanted to have a little celebration to mark the occasion.

I wasn’t sure how to handle it all. Should we drop everything and run to the store? Or just stick with the plan of his favourite takeout and pie for dessert? We ended up doing the latter, and had a very nice evening.

But now I am worried I have missed out. Saturday morning is our usual grocery time and I already made a long list of what we need – nothing apocalyptic, no extra canned goods even, just the basic stuff we are naturally out of, and stuff we would need to make the planned dinners and lunches for next week. What if I arrive at the shops and everything is just gone?

Is it too late already? Are we doomed to be the first to die at the mouths of zombies due to our lack of toilet paper and soup?

My mind is full of other questions and uncertainties too. Like, we have tickets to see Cats tonight, and I really want to go, and it hasn’t been cancelled, so…should we go? Or is that irresponsible? Or is everything just fine?

Another huge worry right now that is full of questions is that we booked a dream trip back in the fall – a cruise to Italy at the end of June. This is after a few years of saving up and a ton of planning and of course, a crap-ton of money. Should we cancel it? Or will everything be fine by then?

What if the school year gets extended due to the missing strike days and the coronovirus shutdown? We’re supposed to leave for our trip the day after the last final exam, but if the year gets extended that means the Captain would miss his final exams in the most important semester of his pre-university career. So should we cancel just in case?

We probably should, I’m guessing? But it is damn hard to say goodbye to this trip that we have planned for and dreamed of for years, not to mention the lost dollars. Sigh.

There’s little things, too. The Captain was supposed to be in his school play this year but it would have been during the shutdown time so it’s been indefinitely postponed. Will he get a chance to perform it? And we are supposed to visit our parents, some of whom are in fragile health, in a couple of weeks – should we, or shouldn’t we?

It’s just really hard to know if this is a zombie apocalypse and we should be responding by freaking out, hoarding, cancelling everything, and hiding inside with shotguns…or if we should carry on as usual and count on everything to sort itself out. I read online that if we cancel things and stay home, and then it turns out to be not as bad as we feared, then that is a win – that responding to the pandemic by taking precautions WORKED.

So I’m going to try to find some middle ground, I guess, and some middle level of panic. I’ll pick up extra food at the store on Saturday if any is available. We’ll keep the vacation booking until we are forced into cancelling. We’ll have the Captain perform his part of the play for us while he’s home on this unintentional, bonus vacation.

And we’ll keep fingers crossed that everything turns out okay.

If you don’t have your health, you haven’t got anything

I have been diligently washing my hands several times a day due to the coronovirus threat, for the last week or so. Today I realized that I work from home, and I am literally alone in silence for at least half the day, and rarely leave the house on weekdays otherwise. So it seems to me there is little point in ME washing my hands. Rather, I should be focusing on getting the germ centres I call my children to wash THEIR hands when they get home.

I feel this is a major world health style breakthrough.

In other health and aging news, I sprained my foot this week by…walking around my kitchen. I was literally just doing my usual morning routine, making lunches, emptying the dishwasher, when I pivoted around and felt something in my foot go POP. Instant pain.

I’ve been staying off it for the past three days now (see: working from home, never going outside, which makes it very easy to rest up, it’s practically my default state of being). It’s feeling a bit better now, and I can limp on it without cringing, although it still hurts when too much pressure is applied. It looks like it is going to heal, which is all well and good, but when I really think about it it is TERRIFYING to me that I can injure myself by walking around my kitchen. Can slipping as I exit the bath be far behind? Breaking a hip as I come up the porch stairs? Snapping a wrist as I pour from a full pot of tea?

Aging sucks, is all I am saying.

And in even more health related news, a small update on the Captain’s scoliosis, as several lovely friends and family have asked me about this. We went to the hospital and in very anti-climatic news, they intend to do…nothing at all. His curve is pretty severe – you can see it when you look at him — but it’s not so bad that it would require surgery. And a brace is unlikely to help at this point, both because he is almost done growing, and because his curve is very high up, and braces mostly help curves that are lower down. (Here was something I didn’t know: braces for scoliosis are just to help prevent it from getting worse; they can’t fix an existing curve like braces for teeth.)

So the answer is…he just lives his life like this. Which I think is really weird. But apparently not that uncommon. So we’re working on stretches and core strength, and learning to ignore it. Given that I have a coronovirus to worry about, and the possibly of breaking a leg while getting up off the couch to get another ice cream cone, I’m happy to tuck this one away in the back corner of my mind for now.

Speed Warnings

On the street where my older kids’ high school is, there is a light-up sign that tells you your current speed. It’s meant to be a traffic calming thing so that if you see you are going too fast, you slow down.

I am developing very strong negative feelings towards this sign because I feel it is very unfair. The limit on that road is 40 km/h. The sign will show your speed in green, with a happy face, if you are going 40 km/h or slower.

However, once you are going 41 or higher, it flips to flashing red with a frowny face.

I think it isn’t a deterrent at all if you are going to lump in people going 41 km/h with people going 65 km/h. If everything over 40 is 100% WRONG, then I feel like I just want to ramp it up. Because why wouldn’t you – you’re in the wrong already, may as well crank it to 80, right?

I would say I am typically going between 40 and 45 on that road which, in my opinion, isn’t that bad. I think I don’t deserve the red flashing and frowny face. I think there should be more of a yellow area here. Maybe with a neutral kind of straight-mouth face. I could live with the gentle warning that I’m getting a little speedy.

But to classify me at 42 km/h as being LIFE SENTENCE SERIAL KILLER GUILTY seems extreme, don’ t you think?

There is a similar sign on a much larger, busier road that I pass every week on my way to tap class. On that road, the limit is 80 but there is a nice yellow buffer zone from 80 to 90 where your speed is shown in an amber colour, not flashing, and only goes to flashing red around 90 somewhere.

MUCH more sensible.

This whole thing is like a real-life microcosm of the show The Good Place, which just concluded its four-year run with a discussion of the concept of Punishment Fits the Crime, and also the idea of a “medium place” for people who aren’t saints, but aren’t really bad either.

There should be a Medium Place of speed calming signs, is all I’m saying, and if this doesn’t get resolved soon, I may throw a baseball bat in the back of my car next time I’m heading out to the high school, NO REASON.

Crayons and Coupons

My children would like me to document here, for the world to know, that I say the word “crayon” funny, despite the fact that I deny it vigorously.

They all agree that the word “crayon” is a two-syllable word that sounds like “cray-on.” Meanwhile, I apparently say “cran,” like, my son says, the first syllable in “cranberry.”

I personally don’t hear any difference between the way I say it and they way they say it, which is, apparently, hilarious. I have run into this before, as we have a friend who pronounces bagel like “baaag-el” instead of “bay-gle” which is clearly wrong, but he doesn’t hear it at all. So I suppose it is possible. Also possible: I’m right, everyone else is wrong, stuff it.

My husband also, according to them, says “cran” instead of “crayon” and so they grew up thinking this was a legit way to pronounce the word (IT IS THE ONLY WAY, THANK YOU) and are already planning years of therapy to deal with the horror of finding out, just a couple of years ago, that the whole world says this word in two-syllable format (THEY CLAIM) and thus all of us Turtleheads have been running around sounding like uneducated muffins for years (IT’S THEM, NOT US).

I already have spent years trying to convert to saying “coo-pon” instead of “cue-pon” for coupons, which is a very Cambridge thing (that’s where I’m from) and you know what? It’s frankly not worth it. I told the kids I am not going to bother to change to cray-on and that furthermore, I am reverting back to cue-pon, because I have better things to do with my time, and also I AM RIGHT AND THEY ARE WRONG.

Most likely.