The Blurry Phase

Our area officially entered “stage 3” of reopening this weekend, which means just about everything is open now, I guess, although I haven’t heard of big concerts or sports events being restored, and of course, there is the ongoing School Controversy – what’s safe, what’s reasonable, what should we do in September.

(Trust me, I have NO idea. I feel strongly that we cannot send children back to school until we have some new measures in place – and the funding behind them – to try to protect kids and staff. But I also feel strongly that we cannot reopen all other areas of the economy and not open schools, because we are basically asking at least one parent (most likely the mom) to quit their job and become a full-time daycare, and unless the government is going to pony up some money for COVID leave and job protection, then that is also a no. So the answer is, there is NO ANSWER. Sigh.)

Anyway, you can go to the gym and you can go to the library and you can even swim in a public pool if you book a time. You can eat in a restaurant if you wear a mask whenever you aren’t actively putting food and drink in your mouth and you can even see a movie in the near future.

But here at our house, nothing really feels back to normal. In fact, I am a little worried about my kids as they are in Severe Hermit Mode. They actively fight when we want them to leave the house and they have become fused with their pyjamas. I have read a lot about “kid mental health” in these times and I thought our kids were just fine, but I’m starting to think they are possibly AFRAID of going out. Which is sad, and weird, and I worry about it.

In any case, we are still only doing essential errands, and only one of us at a time where possible. We have had a couple of socially distanced backyard visits with my sister (yay!) but we are still doing video calls with other friends and family. My husband finally broke strict quarantine to visit his elderly parents, who are housebound and require a lot of help – his sister has been shouldering the burden since March so we decided to bubble them in so my husband could provide some help, although the kids and I are still staying home.

All this is to say that we have passed into what I am calling The Blurry Phase of quarantine, when all days blur together. Even with a work week/weekend, I am finding it harder and harder to be aware of what day it is. I suppose this is what retirement must feel like – every day is the same, who knows what day of the week or date it is. On any given day, I might do some work, or go for a walk, or go to the grocery store, or clean the house. But it could be any day, really.

The whole idea of the Specialness of Summer is just gone. We used do to Summer of Awesome, remember that? I’d schedule events for every week – from small things like trips to get ice cream, to day trips like museum or beach visits, and even a few longer overnight visits. This year I didn’t even bother to make up the calendar. I tried to brainstorm some activities we could do but either a) we can’t, or b) we don’t feel safe yet, or c) everyone and their cousin are doing it (see: beaches) because there’s nothing else to do and I am not organized enough to get someplace by 8 a.m. and stake out an area.

So we continue to spend our days with a lot of video game time, and watching YouTube, and binge watching Netflix, sprinkled with the occasional Zoom call or walk outside. Day after day after day after day, nothing of note to look forward to, nothing different anywhere on the horizon.

I’m open to your suggestions for safe day tripping that we could maybe add to this summer to make it into something other than a complete bust. But do remember that day trips for us should not include food – i.e. going to a quaint town and getting pastries/fries/local ice cream/fancy hot dogs is not an option due to our many many food allergies. (Even mentioning allergy crap makes me want to throw up my hands in defeat and fuse my own skin to my pyjamas, because it just feels so hopeless.)

Perhaps what we all need is a new hobby we can work on from home. Should we start a family rock band? Should we develop our own board game? Should we build an epic Rube Goldberg machine in the backyard?

Those sound good, actually.

If only I could get off the couch and get dressed, I’d totally make it all happen. Maybe I’ll look into it next weekend, if I can figure out when next weekend actually IS.

Recent Pet Peeves

I have been doing even more cooking than I usually do during the lockdown, not because I enjoy cooking in any way, but because we are now five people who are home all the time who want to eat on a fairly regular basis.

Before the virus, we used to get takeout about once a week, but to tell the truth we were already getting pretty bored of it, anyway. Since two of my kids have food allergies, our takeout options are extremely limited. Gal Smiley, for example, could only have ONE thing – a particular Subway sandwich on panini bread – and you can image that having that same sandwich every single week can get tiring and really take the shine off of “whoo hoo takeout night!” for her. The Captain is able to have like, three different things (OMG THE SELECTION) but since we were tied to Subway, takeout night usually meant at least two different stops and an epic journey that meant that everyone’s fries were stone cold and limp by the time we got home.

So getting takeout was already fading in terms of popularity, and with the shutdown, we just eliminated it altogether and went 100% cook at home.

I’m someone who can eat very bland food and enjoy that, and eat the same thing every day and enjoy that as well, but unfortunately for me, some members of my family value both taste and variety (SIGH). So lately I have been trying to find some interesting new recipes to try.

And this leads me to my major pet peeve of this week: recipe blogs.

Why is it that every single recipe site:

a) has to have several long paragraphs of text before getting to the point, describing their entire taste and experiment journey, and discussing the entire history of this kind of food;

b) has to load about 1000 ads, both inline and in the sidebars and all over the place, causing the text to shift around repeatedly as I’m trying to read it;

c) bring up a giant pop-up in my face asking me if I want to SUBSCRIBE and if not, do I want PUSH NOTIFICATIONS, and AM I REALLY SURE that isn’t want I came here for in the first place; and

d) when they finally, FINALLY, actually post the recipe at the very very very end of the post, make it a complicated treasure hunt to find the magic button that will make it printable.

It is especially annoying to try to call up a “quick recipe” on your phone, where everything is so compacted that you have to scroll for about 100 hours to reach the actual recipe which is probably unreadable on mobile screens, anyway.

So I vow that one day, I will have a recipe blog of all my favourite go-to receipes, and it will NOT contain any jibber jabber life story adventures, and it will NOT contain ANY advertising or any pop-ups in any way. No, it will be hey, you want a recipe for vegan cheese buns? HERE IT IS. And here’s a button for printing it. HAVE AT IT.

I was so incensed thinking about this earlier this week, after trying to search up several different recipes on my phone and having the same extremely poor user experience, that I remembered another of my favourite pet peeves, and that is the lack of good greeting cards in the world. Sometimes you want to send a greeting card because it is a small gesture you can make to people who you don’t know well or don’t like all that much, but social rules dictate you should at least acknowledge them on their birthday/anniversary/parental day. I vowed many years ago to make a line of neutral/low emotion greeting cards that will gently wish the person a good day and overall positivity, without having to gush on and on, through bad poetry, about how very very much this person has affected your whole life and impacted the world and made everything so much better. It’s a greeting card, for heaven’s sake, not an autobiography. It’s been a while since I made that vow so I better start getting around to acting on it.

Sometimes I feel like I have to do EVERYTHING to have it done right. I mean, really.

Nothing is Normal

I have been reading and watching as much as possible about the Black Lives Matter protests. Although I was already solidly on the side of the protesters, I am still learning a ton and reading everything I can that comes my way. Although the death of George Floyd was, sadly, not new or different or even shocking, I feel hopeful, like this time, things can really be different. I feel like people are listening, and making an effort to learn, and trying to figure out how to be actively anti-racist, not just bystanders. And I feel like the general tide of public opinion in both the United States and here in Canada is turning, in that I read lots of (eye-opening, compelling) arguments supporting people rioting, and it made sense, and the world really does feel like we have to burn it all down in order to get some half-decent change around here, so let’s do it.

I hope this means real and lasting change. I will continue to read and learn and be active in putting my money, votes, and voice where I can help.

In other news, the government of Ontario is now opening things up pretty widely. Starting this week, we can all get haircuts and the mall is open and we can go to the beach and the park. Just about everything is open now, except schools and big sports and concert arenas.

So like most families at this time, we are struggling with choosing between what is permitted, versus what we think is actually safe. I understand the need to open things up a bit, but it really does feel a little too soon – when you look at all the data and graphs, other countries who are opening up shops are far, far ahead of where North America is in terms of number of cases and number of deaths.

My husband and I are still working from home, and our kids are still doing school at home (but very much looking forward to the summer break). I’m still wearing a mask when I go out to do grocery shopping, but in the past two weeks I have expanded my weekly shopping trips to include a couple of other stores where I’d been putting off picking up a few needed items for a long time. We have finally made an orthodontist appointment for Gal Smiley, who broke her permanent retainer wire about six weeks ago, which I’m nervous about but they have strict separation and protection equipment rules in place so that’s a go, for now.

We’re considering expanding our bubble to include my sister and her husband who live here in town. Our youngest turns 13 in a couple of weeks and we are considering letting her invite one friend over for an afternoon, but that still seems radical and crazy. But perhaps we will just always feel that way now – that having people over is a dangerous thing, that going from store to store in a morning of errands is a bold and risky endeavour.

It looks like Sir Monkeypants will be working from home for several more months, at least – he can easily work from home and his company is in no rush to have people back. With school ending, the kids will be here just like always. So it looks like we’ll just Keep On Keeping On for the foreseeable future at least, keep watching the numbers, keep learning new things, keep trying not to panic, but rather to make safe choices and bold choices and choices for change and choices for life.

It’s all kind of a jumble right now. But we’ll get there.

Things You Think About While Recovering

I had the tooth out on Friday, and all went well in that there were no complications and it was over with quickly. The doctor and nurses were all in head-to-toe protective gear and Sir Monkeypants had to spend two hours waiting for me out in his car, but otherwise, it was a very pleasant experience. Well, except for the giant hole in my head, but otherwise, pleasant.

There is nothing like a giant hole in your head, by the way, to make you really feel every inch of the nearly-50-years-old that I am. Recovery has been slow. I mean, it’s only technically been three days, so perhaps I expected too much, but I’m still unable to talk or eat with comfort. I’m spending a lot of time lying on the couch feeling generally unwell and trying mentally to get used to this huge hole in my mouth, which is harder than I thought it was going to be.

Also, I am drinking a lot of Ensure, and if THAT isn’t enough to make you feel almost-50, what is? Sheesh.

While lying on the couch I have been watching a stream of content from all our services and one thing that has come up in a few different places is that Americans (I’m guessing?) do not remove their shoes in their homes. Seth Myers (source of all my American news these days) did a bit on a video this past week about how when someone invites you over and then asks you remove your shoes, you do it politely, and then make a mental note to never visit their house again.

Is this actually a thing? The Captain and I have become rather obsessed about it. Every show and movie, people never remove their shoes unless they are actually getting into bed. I used to think this was just for costuming purposes, but is it really how people do the shoe thing?

What about in Canada?

Needless to say, we are shoe removers and have been our whole lives. Perhaps it is more common in places where you spend at least half the year in wet, heavy boots that you obviously would remove when you come in. But even in summer, we take our sandals/flip flops/runners off at the door.

Do you? Is this a cultural thing, or even a universal thing? Are we the weirdos?

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.


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.


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?