posts tagged with 'pandemic'

can you miss people you see three times a week?

One thing that helped us survive a week without our bubble school friends was a chance to hang out with different friends for the first time in over a year. While we see lots of them over Zoom—the kids do things together online three or four times a week!—they have an immunocompromised family member so they've been quarantining hard since February 2020. But now the vaccine has opened their horizons a little bit and we were able to take an expedition with them on Thursday afternoon. We drove to their house and then biked all together to Great Brook Farm: a short ride for the sake of the youngest cyclist, new to her own two wheels, but one that gave us a new sort of challenge as we navigated the high speed auto traffic of Concord Road in Chelmsford. We survived! And then we were glad to take to the trails at Great Brook.

It wasn't all cycling though. We spent lots of time watching and chasing the bullfrog tadpoles in the pond and comparing notes with another aspiring zoologist, a boy who approached the kids looking to play—and who turned out to be a long-ago member of our church community group. That was like six or seven years ago and he's only eight, so it didn't really matter to their interaction, but it was still a fun coincidence. We also jumped onto and over some horse jumps for a surprisingly long time; and, most importantly, the nine-year-olds had time to wrestle a little bit. You can't do that over Zoom! We were masked up of course, but it was still a wonderful opportunity for connection that we were missing. The only problem was that it was so much fun I didn't take any pictures of the kids playing together! Oh well, we'll have to do it again soon.

still managing to read

As we started spending more time at and around the playground the last couple weeks, I remembered that I really miss the library. Really, not getting to visit there once a week—or more!—is one of the hardest things about this pandemic for us (which shows how incredibly fortunate we are, something I don't take for granted in the least). But even without the library for fifty-three weeks and counting we haven't done that badly for books. Sure, we'd love to have access to new and interesting picture books, and research on the internet isn't nearly as fun as paging though age-appropriate texts. For chapter books, though, we've managed to find enough new material to keep up our habit of reading half and hour to an hour every day. My habit of stocking up at every used book sale I see is paying off!

It also helps, of course, that the boys all really love being read to, and that all three of them are interested in a wide variety of styles. In the last couple weeks we've read Misty of Chincoteague and The Tale of Desperaux (that's a new one for us; Leah found it at Savers), and now we're working our way through My Family and Other Animals, an autobiographical account of zookeeper and naturalist Gerald Durrell's childhood on the Greek island of Corfu in the 1930s. I don't think I would have tried to read it to them a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic: it's more episodic and atmospheric than plot-driven, and while it's filled with beautifully written description it's not necessarily a story you'd expect would be enjoyed by a seven-year-old. But it's also silly and full of animals, so I guess that's a winner.

That's not to say I wouldn't much rather have the option, at least, of finding some good new books at the library. Every time we reach the end of one book I start to get nervous that, this time, we've really come to the end of our supply. Everything else is open now: even the elementary schools are now back in person four days a week, and middle and high school will be going back full time in a couple weeks. And we can go to supermarkets and malls and, for all I know, bars and movie theaters! So why not libraries?!

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Elijah's birthday in time of pandemic

On Saturday morning, Elijah was heard to ask, "how long is my birthday?" Three wonderful days, my son! At least, that's how long his birthday banners were up, and how long he got to say things like, "I get to have that because it's my birthday." I think all things considered—the main thing being, as always, coronavirus—he had a pretty good one. On Saturday, which was his actual birthday, he had his Zoom party with his socially-distanced friends. The birthday boxes I delivered along with the cupcakes had little animal erasers that were the centerpiece of an animal trivia game Leah led the kids through. It was a great success, and I learned that kangaroos can't fart! Sadly there's not that much for six-year-olds—and one brand-new seven-year-old—to do on Zoom, so after the game, watching each other eat cupcakes, and a little shared drawing, they wrapped up after about 50 minutes. The shortest party we've ever thrown! But since one Zoom minute is like eight minutes in real life, it was actually a little over our usual time.

Then today we got to celebrate in person in real life with our bubble school friends. Which basically looked like a regular day of playing and learning together—which is so wonderful it's like a birthday party every day we do it! Treats are also pretty usual in our school day, but today one had a candle in it, so that was different. More to the point, the friends came with presents! Lijah was delighted to open gifts containing stuffed animals, notebooks, and a playdough candy factory, plus a lego set sent over by one of the Zoom party attendees. And those were on top of the amazing things he got from his parents and grandparents on Saturday: a new bike, a new helmet, and a matching stuffed bunny and fur cloak handmade by Mama! It was a hard birthday in some ways—in our house it marked one full year of pandemic life, as Lijah's 6th birthday was the last open social event we held before the world shut down just a couple days after. But I think even with that we did a fine job, and our little boy feels properly celebrated.

One way I did under-perform, though, was in the picture-taking department. I was too busy having fun. But here's an image of him riding his new bike wearing his new cloak early Saturday morning. Isn't it delightful!

Elijah riding his new bike on our street

birthday ride

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marking the day when time has no meaning

New Years feels kind of strange this year; Thanksgiving and Christmas were both so low-key, and we very well may have let New Years Eve pass by entirely unremarked. Sure, we're glad to see the back of 2020, but as Leah remarked this morning when we were talking about resolutions, "why bother trying to do anything different these days?" Tomorrow will be much like today, I imagine. But one of our friends asked yesterday if we wanted to do something like a hike, and another friend said they weren't around until the evening and suggested a fire. So in the event, we had a pretty good party! I made pizza, friends brought cookies and hot cider, and for a couple hours we sat around the fire (at an appropriate distance, of course) and chatted about New Years hopes and movies and water heaters. Some of the time the kids played laser tag. It actually compared pretty favorably to some other New Years observations I've taken part in: there's no mess inside the house to deal with, and I didn't drink so my upset stomach is due only to overconsumption of pizza and cookies plus s'mores, eggnog, and maybe a bit too much cider. So now I'm ready for a new year. Here's hoping it's a better one!

our Thanksgiving day

We celebrated Thanksgiving just the five of us, and it was nice. Originally we were going to get together with Leah's parents and brother to exchange food and take a walk, but due to the rain we postponed that until tomorrow. While it would have been great to see them, I think I'm glad things ended up the way they did, because it was actually really lovely to have a quiet cozy day at home in the rain, reading, playing cards, and slowly but steadily making food. And we made some food!

food on our table

a feast!

Leah took charge of the turkey. I made sides: mashed potatoes, green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, and stuffing. I also made a pumpkin pie, but then when it came time for the boys to add their own contributions it turned out they all wanted to do desserts too. Harvey made an apple crisp and Lijah folded some pieces of Hershey chocolate in Pillsbury crescent roll dough to make some quite delicious chocolate croissants. Zion... caused ice cream to be purchased? Does that count? We all ate very well.

I was especially happy with the stuffing. It was the recipe my mom has used all my life (and probably long previous!), which I don't think I've ever attempted before. Why would I? I've always had the real thing available! My attempt came out a little different but just as delicious, and since only Harvey and I wanted any there's plenty left over. Actually, there's plenty of everything left over: with that spread, we couldn't even finish off the veggies and dip! And there will be more food coming tomorrow. Yikes! Good thing the rain's over so we can get some exercise.

We talked a little about what we're thankful for this year. Mostly surviving covid and enjoying some new opportunities in this strange pandemic world. Zooms with far-away friends and bubble school for the most part, but Thanksgiving around our own table came in for a little love too. I hope and trust we won't have to do it this way again... but maybe we'll want to, every once and a while.

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farewell to the pandemic market

We missed the last Farmers Market this afternoon. I had actually thought the last one was the week before, and we made kind of a thing about it; I bought $75 worth of meat. But then we heard there was one more. We planned to go, but after a fun walk in the morning and lots of work in the afternoon, I just didn't have it in me to make another trip out before I had to make dinner and host a Zoom meeting. Oh well. We love the Farmers Market, but I have to say it just wasn't the same this year. I understand that they needed to take precautions, and I appreciate the effort they put in to make sure that it could even happen, and happen in a way that made everyone feel comfortable. But a big part of the appeal in years past was the festival atmosphere—the crowds, the music, the general excitement—and there was none of that this year. Instead, there was a lot of standing in lines six feet apart. Oh, and also not touching any of the food! My mom points out how silly it is that we can go to the grocery store and paw over everything alongside 100 other people, but at the entrance-controlled market with the farmers eyes on the customers we can't pick out our own potatoes. Oh well. We got lots of good food there this year anyways; next year we can look forward to good food and good times too.

bubbling up

Monday was an exciting day at our house. After a couple weeks of thinking and planning and feeling each other out, we had the first full day of our in-person school bubble. It was so great. With two other families, we gathered on the back deck to talk about Indigenous Peoples' Day, do some math and literacy work together, and process acorns in water boiling on the fire. And play and talk, of course. And when the rain got a little heavy for the group working on paper, we even went inside! The first time anyone but us has sat on our couches in almost seven months was a big moment... and it's not a coincidence that it was some of the same people who were here the last time back in March.

Lijah and two friends doing math work in our living room

math with friends!

We're part of a co-op, but it's having trouble getting going this fall. That may be my fault—I refuse to admit to any particular leadership, but I'm certainly one of the main organizers. In any case, between everyone's different schedules and risk profiles, nobody's really wanted to commit to in-person events; and most of the kids aren't that big on video-conferencing (we're trying to stay away from it ourselves, at least while the weather stays warmish). So a couple weeks ago I reached out to two families who we see socially who were also willing to consider getting together, and we agreed that we could try bubbling up to do some school work.

The bubble part is, of course, new and exciting—we spent five hours together yesterday, easily the longest stretch of time we've shared space with anyone since the pandemic started. But the school part is new too! For the last few years our co-op activities have been limited to fun outings, enrichment activities (awesome ones, to be fair!) and book groups. This fall we're going to be trying to do a little more consistent work together on things like math and writing, and giving our kids a chance to work with age peers rather than their siblings all the time. It's still a work in progress, but it was encouraging yesterday to observe the attention span the kids showed for working together. We're planning to gather every Monday and Friday, and we'll see how it goes... we have high hopes!

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zooming through the last book

When the pandemic started there were lots of people creating attractive offerings online, and one of them was from our friends the Jacksons (creators of the amazing story podcast, Tales From the Moosiverse). As we entered the first full pandemic week—the first week of lockdown, no school, and work from home—they stepped up an offered to read a chapter book to any and all kids who wanted to tune in over Zoom from two to three o'clock. They kicked it off with Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, and when that was finished—in just a couple of days—they moved right on to the fabulous Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr. They read for an hour every day, and the group of kids listening quickly became a real community. It was certainly a big part of our life! The five-day-a-week schedule ran through the end of June, then they switched to Monday-Wednesday-Friday for the summer months. This week, after something like 35 books and close to 100 hours of reading, what came to be called "Zoom Through a Book" came to an end.

The Jacksons didn't read all those books, all those hours. Other parents and grandparents stepped in for a few—I read three, myself—and a couple kids even did some reading. But they carried the bulk of it, and all of the scheduling effort, and they were definitely the heart and soul of the project. The 30 or so kids who were there that first week back in March didn't all stick around, of course: as schools' remote learning started up some of them got too busy, and others drifted away when the weather got nicer. But that just meant the group that stuck around became more and more of a community (interestingly, all but one of the diehards were homeschoolers...). After the reading ended each day they'd stick around to chat and share games and pictures with the "share screen" function, for 45 minutes or more if they could get away with it. Human contact is precious these days! There was a party on Wednesday to wrap things up, and it definitely felt like something worth scheduling.

At this point, to be honest, we're ready for a break from screens. That full schedule I described in the linked post up again (here it is again if you don't want to scroll up) eased up a bit as the months of the pandemic passed, but not that much. We're doing Kids Church on Sunday, then it's no Zoom for a full week—more, if we can manage it—while we clear our brains and get ready for fall. We're planning a little more (careful) human contact, but we know that there will be plenty of virtual interaction too. Which is fine: because the Jacksons have shown us how well it can go! Yay for Zoom Through a Book!

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everyday outings again?

It's been a long time since we went on an outing that wasn't an adventure in the great outdoors. In former days we used to go shopping, visit playgrounds, and spend lots of time at the library. Oh the library! How we miss it! Well, the library is still closed but the playground has reopened, and kids aren't barred from stores any longer, so yesterday we took a trip to the center of town just like old times. One difference, of course, was that Elijah rode his own bike: up the hill for the first time! We played on the playground for good long time before doing a little shopping at Whole Foods and Marshalls (for shorts: two out of three boys had holes in the ones they were wearing on the trip). When we got back Mama asked the kids what it was like going into a store for the first time in four months; pretty much regular, they said. It still feels kind of like a milestone.

Another milestone was returning (almost) the last of the library books we checked out back in March. While they're not letting us in, the library is now open for curbside pickup, so the book drop is back in action as well and they're sending us overdue notices for the books we've had for four months. It felt strange looking through them as we bagged them up to take back: we've read some of them so many times it felt like we owned them, while others, read once back in March, reminded us of how much time has passed since all this started. We used to go to the library at least once every week, often twice! We miss it. I'm psyching myself up to use the online catalogue and put in an order for pickup, but that's just not how I want to find books. We really want is to be able to browse the shelves again! The town just cancelled all town activities through the end of the year, so it doesn't look good for that. We're ready when they are.

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summer vacation

The boys are just coming to terms with the idea that we won't be going camping in Maine this summer. Leah and I haven't missed a year in Acadia since we've got married, which of course means none of the kids have missed at least two nights camping in Bar Harbor every year of their lives. So that's kind of tough. As Zion has said more than once, "stupid Covid." But that isn't to say that everything is terrible. Sure, we're stuck at home. But with everything the way it is, home is actually feeling pretty vacationy!

Zion and Lijah in swimsuits by the fire, Zion enjoying a smore

our life these days

At least for Leah and me, the thing that does the most to make every day feel like vacation is getting to eat outside at least two meals every day. Breakfast outside in Bedford isn't much less special that breakfast outside on the Cape, and our fire is just as good at suppertime as any we've ever had at a campsite. Sure, we're missing out on all the delightful attractions of those locations—but we have our own kitchen! (Young people: when you get old you come to appreciate kitchens at least as much as beaches.) And of course we have some serious flexibility in our work hours that's letting us take as many exciting outings at the pandemic allows. The dogs have walked in every woods inside a 30-mile radius, and we've done plenty of cycling and even some swimming. Only one boat trip so far this year, but we've got that leak patched up now so more of that will be coming. So while Covid is indeed stupid and we're really going to miss camping with our friends, things aren't entirely terrible around here. At least we'll always have smores.

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