You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2020.

A sage person recently reminded me that two contradictory things can be true at the same time. This wisdom seems particularly relevant right now, as the world struggles with a terrifying pandemic that is killing hundreds of thousands of people and causing widespread unemployment, hunger, and myriad manifestations of physical, social, and emotional distress. At the same time (which seems almost cruel to say because the first thing is so awful it feels insensitive to contradict its weight) there are good things happening that would never have otherwise been possible.

In no particular order:

  • Greater appreciation of teachers and school staff
  • Cancellation of standardized testing
  • More downtime for over scheduled kids (and adults)
  • Less consumer spending (at least at our house)
  • Dramatic reduction in air and water pollution
  • Families and friends connecting more using technology
  • Grandparents learning how to use more technology
  • Individuals and families getting outside and exercising together
  • Greater appreciation of grocery store workers, janitors, garbage collectors, and other essential workers who don’t earn enough money
  • More time for kids to explore their interests and passions
  • Opportunity to be creative about learning (please note I am NOT saying this is easy or that homeschooling is simple or that most of us aren’t going berserk, just that we can think differently about what’s important for our kids to be learning and doing and maybe that’s not the same as what it has been for a long time)
  • Workplaces learning how to be more flexible
  • Greater awareness of the brokenness of our healthcare system and hopefully more public and political will to fix it (of course doctors, nurses, and medical staff are AMAZING! I’m talking about the overall system, insurance, etc.)
  • Neighbors helping each other out more
  • People who don’t usually go to church (or synagogue or mosque, etc) or museums, or the theater, or the ballet, or wherever else, may check these things out online and maybe find new destinations and communities when this thing is over.

I’m sure there are many more, but I’ve been thinking a lot about adaptability and innovation. Yesterday I was both delighted and dismayed to watch Zoe’s first home-based virtual martial arts class. Dismayed only because our family loves the EvolveAll community so much. EvolveAll has been a major part of our lives for eight years now. In recent times, since both Zoe and Zeke are students there and since Zoe was training for and earned her black belt, we typically spent six to nine hours in the studio every week. We love the instructors and the staff, we love the kids and parents, we love the warm, encouraging, and fun vibe. And we haven’t been able to be there for three weeks!

I was thrilled, however, (although not surprised!) to see the tremendous effort that Emerson, Christian, Elijah, Kamil, and the team have put in to creating a new experience for the kids. Over the past three weeks they had posted training videos online, but watching a martial arts video on your own is not that much fun, compared to the feeling of working hard together in class. So yesterday EvolveAll launched its live classes via Zoom, along with a participation component for parents and kids using Class Dojo. I could tell how glad Zoe was to see her martial arts instructors and friends again, even if only on a screen, and to get back to practicing black belt techniques.

Through the magic of Zoom, Master Emerson could see into everyone’s living rooms or basements, and offered guidance on how people could modify their techniques so as not to kick any nearby furniture. At the end of class he solicited feedback from the students, whose main request was more and longer classes.

Of course everyone would rather be doing martial arts (and ballet class, and music lessons, and soccer practice, and everything else that’s been cancelled) together in the studio or on the field and not in their living rooms, but it is so reassuring to know that just because you can’t see your people doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Maintaining a strong sense of community is essential during physical isolation, and I know these kids (and their parents) will never forget the instructors, teachers, coaches, and other folks who are helping us stay together.

  • This is what you do when your six-year-old purple stripe belt has his first live martial arts class via Zoom 30 minutes after your first Google Hangout staff meeting with your new client is scheduled to begin.

  1. Make Zeke clean up rogue legos off the rug
  2. Move table off the rug–stand it up between other stuff near the back door
  3. Create a Zoom account for your six-year-old on your iPad
  4. Find martial arts Zoom invitation in your email
  5. Text it to yourself so you can open on your iPad
  6. Copy Zoom link into iCal on the iPad
  7. Show Zeke how to open iCal and click on the link
  8. Show Zeke how to login to Zoom
  9. Have Zeke remind you how to AirPlay iPad screen onto tv
  10. When Zeke asks how long until the class starts, realize you need to go ahead with that time-telling lesson
  11. Gather materials to make paper clock using instructions from PBS Kids
  12. Realize you don’t have a metal brad so try substituting with a weird plastic brad from the toolbox
  13. Assemble clock
  14. Realize the plastic brad does not allow the paper hands to move easily
  15. At Zeke’s suggestion, replace paper hands with pipe cleaners
  16. Provide brief lesson on how to tell time
  17. Make fruit smoothie because you realize you haven’t eaten all day and you’re going into a 90-minute video call
  18. Put blender in the sink and turn on faucet to sprayer mode to rinse out blender like they do at Starbucks
  19. While putting smoothie ingredients away, realize that blender is overflowing with water and faucet is now spraying water all over the kitchen floor
  20. Hastily up kitchen floor
  21. Briefly sit on patio to do conference call outside but realize that’s totally untenable
  22. Sprint upstairs to do the call in your office, which is now your husband’s office, while your husband does his conference call in the bedroom
  23. Meet new coworkers at virtual staff meeting and try to figure out four new assignments received in past 24 hours
  24. Try to remain focused despite incoming calls and messages from friends, family, and other clients

This gets easier, right?

Right?

Tonight we watched a makeshift team of superstars use their powers for the greater good.

Last week when I heard about a televised concert being hosted by Elton John and featuring an array of pop stars and celebrities, I figured it was another goodwill effort by musicians to bring cheer into our quarantined and anxious lives. Turns out, the concert was perhaps the most important public service announcement I’ve ever seen.

The iHeart Radio Living Room Concert for America not only delivered heartfelt performances direct from the living rooms (or diving board, in Tim McGraw’s case) of talented musicians, but included scene after scene of doctors, nurses, hospitals, EMTs, and firefighters working to help people through the pandemic. The show highlighted video clips of impassioned pleas from medical workers sharing what they’ve seen and beseeching the public to stay home. Elton John encouraged viewers to donate to Feeding America, a hunger-relief organization that is working to make sure millions of families are able to access nutritious food, especially when they’ve lost their jobs or are facing illness and to the First Responder Children’s Foundation, which supports children and families of first responders.

We’ve been reading the news obsessively–perhaps Randy even more than I have because he’s a news junkie to begin with–and we have watched and read devastating firsthand accounts from doctors and nurses. But the horror of this situation is still fresh, and seeing these people–still in their scrubs, with masks hanging around their necks–describe what they had just lived through was heartbreaking.

Watching this concert gave me hope, however, because it was being broadcast on Fox, on YouTube, and on the IHeartRadio app, and I suspect that millions of people who have not been obsessively reading the news–perhaps even some of those people who ignorantly and inexplicably attended coronavirus parties and crowded Florida beaches on spring break–were watching too. And I hope to God that what they saw shocked them and shook them and will make them stay the hell home and away from people they might unwittingly infect or be infected by, for the greater good.


This morning I watched something entirely different, although it was also created and shared by a team of heroes. Because of the pandemic, my church–along with many religious congregations around the world–has moved to conducting Sunday services online. UUCA has a long tradition of live-streaming services on Sunday morning so people can watch from home, but now that we’re literally not supposed to be together at church, they’ve had to come up with new ways to create the Sunday morning experience. Before I joined the UUCA ministerial search committee two years ago, I was a member of the worship team at UUCA and I absolutely loved contributing to Sunday morning services. I know how much goes into planning and conducting a service, even under ordinary circumstances, so I was profoundly grateful to the ministers and staff and worship team who made today’s service happen. Board of Trustees representative Amy offered a welcome from her front porch, with cherry blossoms blooming in the background. Gail, (another) Amy, and Gay shared reflections about how they are finding love and light in this unbelievably confusing and difficult time. Gail’s daughters Carmen and Kamila told the story “We Are Not Afraid,” about the illegally integrated Highlander Folk School in Tennessee and the students’ response when armed white men broke into the school. The girls sang “We Shall Overcome” so sweetly. Gail and Gay quoted the Persian poets Rumi and Hafiz. Gay read the Maya Angelou poem “Continue.”

“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness. Continue to allow humor to lighten the burden of your tender heart.”

Maya Angelou

And there was beautiful music by our accompanist Sophia, an original song and a wonderful rendition of “Meditation on Breathing” which I LOVE, by the talented Kristin Cotts. And so much more. It was all so much MORE than a regular service could be. We had the opportunity to see people and hear from them in their own homes, to meditate to photos and videos of the ocean, and to experience a deeply reassuring coming together of voices and faces of people I love.


In the middle of these two moments, I experienced a moment of shared joy as I watched Zoe pedal confidently around and around and around the (completely empty) church parking lot. Zoe technically learned how to ride a bicycle a few years ago, but she never felt comfortable enough to actually ride for fun or transportation. She even made her own bike (which she was riding today) through a cool program in our community that teaches kids how to fix bikes and enables them to earn one of their own after putting in a certain number of hours. Until now, however, there were always things she wanted to do more than practice riding. She agreed to get back on the bike today, and after just a little while she went from riding a few feet and then hesitating to zooming around the blacktop with a huge smile on her face. After we went home, she asked Randy if he would take her back to the parking lot so she could ride some more.

Zeke has not yet arrived at this state of grace, but he will. He spent about 20 minutes working on gliding around on his bike, which has no pedals right now, but which we will reattach the pedals to as soon as we can borrow the right tool. After that he decided to return to the car to read his book, which he was content to do while Zoe rode.

One kid at a time…

When a tickle in your throat strikes terror in your heart, it’s hard to act like everything is normal. When you wonder every single time you wash your hands, which seems to be in the high dozens every day, if there was any virus on your hands and if you washed it off enough or if you left some on the faucet handle, it’s hard to return to what you were doing with your full attention. When you already personally know two people who have lost loved ones to this virus but you know there will be many more, it’s hard to concentrate on anything.

You can distract yourself for a little while at a time. I finished a great YA novel last night and started another one today. I cleaned the kitchen and planned meals for the week. Zeke and I played Uno. I started studying A Little Bit of Tarot along with the cards in the deck my friend Tracey gave me before she moved away. Our family watched a sweet and funny movie–The Unicorn Store, starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson like you’ve never seen him before. Tomorrow we’re going to watch online church and take the kids and their bikes to an empty parking lot to practice riding.

Of course you have to live your life, because that’s how it works. And when you have kids, you have to keep things moving so they don’t absorb all your anxiety, because they will if you aren’t careful. And right now I have a lot of anxiety, and I am notoriously bad at hiding my feelings.

I’ve been through difficult situations before when people told me I had to keep it together for the kids, and not cry in front of them. I understand the need to be strong and reassuring for your kids, but I also believe kids learn from their parents that it’s ok to have feelings, and it’s ok to have negative feelings, and that they’re part of life and you have to figure out how to handle them. Life isn’t always pretty or easy, and if you don’t have a model for how to face the hard times, sometimes you refuse to face them, or you fall apart. I know there are lots of ways to be a parent, and this isn’t a subject covered in the instruction manual. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer here. Parenting is already fraught with uncertainty, and living through a pandemic unsettles everything that much more.

By the time this is over, my hair is going to look like Kramer from Seinfeld and my eyebrows will be full-on caterpillars. At least I can clip my own nails so I won’t develop talons. I think sometimes about my absurdly first-world problems—I can’t get my monthly massages or manicures and pedicures. I think about the women who provide these services who likely have zero income right now. I wonder how they’re surviving. I wonder what they are thinking about what they’ll do when all this is over. Will they be able to go back to the jobs they had before? Will those jobs exist in the same way? Will these women have to start over. My massage therapist is also in nursing school. I wonder if she was asked to skip ahead to hands-on training. I wonder if she still wants to be a nurse.

I am reading more accounts from doctors and nurses on the front lines. These stories are horrifying. Yet I sense that a lot of people are not reading or hearing these stories based on their behavior in public and their public policy decisions. Every day I receive and read emails from the New York Times and National Public Radio providing a rundown of key national and international news items as well as links to in-depth reporting. I’ve gotten these emails for months or maybe years but usually skimmed them. Now I read every word. I acknowledge that these are only two of many reputable news sources available to Americans. But I get the feeling that a lot of people get their news from disreputable sources and that somehow these people are confident that the natural laws of science and math don’t apply to them.

I hope that a real outcome of the pandemic is a genuine discussion of how and why we learn and whether schools are emphasizing the right things. Zoe has been overloaded with online assignments from her teachers. The emails I’ve received from her principal and the school district superintendent indicate that none of this will be graded. Essentially, because she was in good academic standing when the third quarter ended, a week after schools closed, she will be promoted to eighth grade. Of course, you just don’t do your work for the grade, you do it to learn. Or at least you’re supposed to. But it’s ridiculously unrealistic to expect every kid to be able to do the same quality and quantity of work at home, surrounded by their entire families, in the midst of an unprecedented global health crisis, that they do at school. It’s not clear to me why teachers are assigning deadlines and telling students the work will be graded if that’s not the case. (I emailed Zoe’s principal tonight to ask for clarification).

It would be nice if we could focus more on what kids want and need to learn. With Zeke it’s a lot easier to take this approach right now because he has the basic skills required to enter second grade. I can teach him what I think is useful and interesting and let him play with legos for hours at a time. Next week we’ll work on actually telling time. And hopefully how to ride a bike. I realize I have enough knowledge about the public school system and my kids’ abilities to make these decisions, but many families in our community and our country don’t. And I suspect they’re receiving thousands of different messages from thousands of different teachers, principals, and superintendents. This has got to lead to some kind of reckoning in our educational system, right?

Oddly, one of the highlights of my day was a crying baby. I had a call with my point of contact for my new client. He alerted me as soon as the call started that his 16-month-old son had not gone down for his scheduled nap and was rather cranky as a result and that our call might be cut short. He had his son strapped on his chest in a carrier and was trying to give him a bottle and do the familiar parental sway and bounce dance to assuage him. He apologized a couple times and I repeatedly told him not to worry about it, that I have two kids who were once babies and I am intimately acquainted with that exact challenge. He briefed me on a few points and said he would email me details later today or tomorrow and we would talk Monday.

While I empathized for this dad and his baby, I also felt relieved. First that he was a man in this situation, which gave me hope for the state of gender equity in parenting in our culture. And second because starting out a professional relationship with this kind of vulnerability and realness can only be a good thing. Anytime we see each other’s struggles and can put compassion and kindness ahead of deadlines and deliverables is a good thing.

I’ve been taking for granted all the things I love to do that involve being surrounded by strangers. Hearing live music and singing along with people you’ve never met but who find meaning in the same songs that you do. Seeing a movie and laughing or crying along with everyone else who is laughing or crying. Eating delicious food at your favorite restaurant, noticing everyone else satisfying their craving for that same food. Exploring a museum, learning something new, being inspired, wondering how the exhibit is speaking to those around you. Going to the beach and watching people fly kites and build sandcastles and splash and swim and throw frisbees and soak up vitamin D. Being at church and listening to a sermon that might be preached just for you and also for hundreds of other souls searching for ways to make sense of the world, and lighting candles, and praying and meditating together, and holding hands and agreeing to help each other be a force for good in the world.

Even reading, which you might think of as a solitary activity, often involves strangers. I love going to the library–helping my kids pick out books and finding something for myself. And in Arlington I almost always run into someone I know at any library. Browsing in bookstores, which is as much a sensory experience as an intellectual one. I’m one of those people who likes to feel the covers of the books and inhale the scent of paper and ink. At my favorite bookstores there are post-it notes or little notecards taped to the shelves explaining which books are recommended by which of their booksellers and why. I love discovering wonderful things to read thanks to mysterious other readers who are humans rather than algorithms. This month I had planned to go with three good friends to hear Glennon Doyle read from and talk about her new book, Untamed. I would’ve been in the audience at the Lisner Auditorium with thousands of other fans, mostly middle-aged moms like me, feeling intense sisterly solidarity. I was also excited to go with one of my best friends to see one of my all-time favorite authors Ann Patchett speak at a local middle school. Being in a room with strangers and knowing they have all read the same books you’ve read and have been moved by them too is heady.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time over the past 13 years at playgrounds, which are usually lively and well-populated. Around here, if you spend more than 10 minutes at a playground, you’re likely to hear families speaking in at least a couple languages besides English. It’s always fun for me to guess what language they’re speaking and where they might be from. I haven’t heard any languages besides English (random French, Spanish, or German phrases thrown around by my family notwithstanding) in a couple weeks now. Even when we’ve been out on hiking trails in Northern Virginia, I feel like I hear mostly English. We see a lot of white guys in their teens and 20s, some of them talking on their bluetooth earpieces, looking like they’re training for something big.

Just before coronavirus exploded in the US (fortuitously), I had the opportunity to be part of literacy activities at both my kids’ schools. At Zoe’s middle school, I coordinated Booktopia, where invited all 1,100 students to come to the gym (not all at once) to pick out a book to keep. Any book they wanted (that we had)! This involved a lot of volunteers who helped me sort, organize, and restock the books, then sell the leftovers at the used book sale at the school a few days later. Booktopia involved conversations with students and teachers and touching a lot of books that a lot of people had touched. I didn’t think too much about that at the time. The book fair at Zeke’s school was held the same week. This year the book fair was presented by one of my new favorite Arlington organizations–READ (Read Early and Daily). READ’s mission is “ensuring babies and young children have new, quality, culturally relevant books of their own that are mirrors and windows into their everyday lives and communities.” One of the ways READ funds its book giveaways is by running school book fairs. One of the best things about this set-up is that our school book fair had the most spectacular selection of books with diverse characters by diverse authors that I have ever encountered. And since I had just spent several months ordering books for Booktopia that featured diverse (in every possible way) characters written by diverse authors, I was super impressed. The point here is that book fairs are another occasion where many kids and teachers and parents are swirling around. I love helping kids pick out books. I love reading with kids. Now when I think about that I just think about all the possibility for transmission of germs.

Then there’s substituting as a co-oper at Arlington Unitarian Cooperative Preschool, which I have enjoyed doing on occasion since my kids graduated from there. Turns out it’s much less stressful to co-op when A) you’re not required to do it but you’re getting paid for it and B) your own child is not demanding your attention when you’re supposed to be helping with the whole class. The bad news is that infants, toddlers, and preschoolers are pretty indiscriminate about who or what they touch and when and it doesn’t matter where their hands have been. The good news is that AUCP is really into good handwashing. Every kid and every adult washes their hands before snack and after snack and after the playground and before lunch and after lunch and of course after diaper changes and using the potty. One of the lines I always remember from the many parent orientation sessions we attended there was the preschool’s fabulous director Susan Parker saying, “I suggest you invest in a good hand cream because you will be washing your hands all day long.” All that hand washing practice has paid off! So many adults have had to come up with creative ways to remember how to wash their hands properly, but I guarantee you that the five and under set at AUCP have it down already.

Next Monday would’ve been the first game of the soccer season with my amazing women’s team Ice & Ibuprofen. We have cool new jerseys for the season, with a new logo. I don’t know when we’ll have a chance to wear them. Soccer involves a lot of contact with other people. You could kick a ball back and forth while standing six feet apart, but you couldn’t play a game. I know a lot of my teammates know each other because they live in the same neighborhood and their kids go to school together, but I only see them on the field. We had tickets for our family to see the Washington Spirit play their season opener at Audi Field for my birthday. Randy has season tickets to DC United. There are few things as thrilling as cheering on your favorite players and teams in a stadium filled with tens of thousands of other fans. No matter how big your TV is, it’s not the same watching from your couch.

Even though we’re going a little stir-crazy, my family is fine. We have more than enough stimulating and fun activities to do in the house. And we’ve been hiking. We’ve been FaceTiming and Zooming with friends and family. All that is absolutely saving our sanity and keeping our brains engaged. But there’s something about being out in the world, surrounded by strangers, doing something you love and they love too, that I am missing deeply.

Today was a better day.

I made plaster things with Zeke and I made a chocolate pound cake with Zoe. I bought groceries to last us for the rest of spring at Target, which was reassuringly deserted. I made baked potatoes with turkey chili for dinner. I have a call with a new client scheduled for tomorrow! Zoe spent a lot of time talking and laughing on zoom with various friends, which made me happy. Zeke was super excited to use his new Sharpies.

Notably, I spent little to no time reading upsetting things online. All the bad news will still be there for me later. Zoe and I ended the day by watching an episode of Queer Eye. It is impossible not to feel hopeful about humanity when you see the Fab Five work their magical positivity. I definitely needed a dose of that.

We played a fun game tonight—Not Parent Approved–which I ordered from Amazon a few days ago. It’s basically a family-friendly version of Cards Against Humanity. It was good to laugh and think about things other than coronavirus.

Otherwise today was kind of a wash. I think we were all still reeling from the announcement yesterday that school will be closed for the rest of the school year. We have plenty of things to do, but seem to be searching for motivation and focus. I had to work and we hadn’t gotten the kids’ days organized so not much happened. Then in the afternoon I got a migraine and I slept. By nighttime I had removed the screen time restrictions from Zoe’s phone.

In my attempt to wrap my head around “the new normal,” a phrase which fills me with sadness, I sat down with the kids and created a new plan. Instead of having a schedule where we do certain activities at particular times, or even in a specific order, we’re going to choose one item from each of five categories. Of course we can do more than these, and probably sometimes we won’t do all of them, but hopefully this will seem like a manageable daily routine. And hopefully if the kids are able to plan out their choices every morning I will be better able to carve out time for not only my work but also my mental health.

This week I’ve made the time to talk with a few friends, either by phone or in small groups using zoom. That has been hugely helpful, even though a lot of the conversation is all of us saying to each other, “yeah, me too” and “yeah, it’s really hard.”

Zoe came up with the idea to create care packages for her friends and their families and enlisted my help. I am super proud of her thoughtfulness.

We didn’t manage to take any walks or hikes yesterday or today, which I’m sure contributed to our collective funk. Yesterday it was raining and Arlington announced its parks were closed. I wasn’t sure if we would be rounded up by police if we went for a hike. Today the county clarified that trails are open if social distancing is maintained. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow but if there’s a break in the clouds I will try to hustle us out the door. I’m already vitamin D deficient.

I read a couple helpful articles today. One was about how parents need to cut themselves all kinds of slack in trying to attempt the home school thing. My sense of guilt has all but evaporated by now because of all the other thoughts and feelings competing for space in my brain. And I fully recognize how privileged our family is that we don’t have to worry about our kids falling seriously behind. Also I keep reading posts from educators reminding us that everyone is in the same boat.

The other helpful article was about grief. The author who is carrying on Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ work writing about the stages of grief reminded us that we are grieving for everything we’ve lost already and the unknowns that we may lose in the future, including loved ones and livelihoods. This is no small thing. And it’s hard to make space for grieving when it seems so amorphous and we have so much new responsibility.

Twelve hours after my last update and my mind is still chaotic, unable to settle. My kids have asked me repeatedly what we’re doing today, but don’t seem to like any of my suggestions. When I come up with a schedule, nothing on it actually happens, but when I don’t come up with a schedule, nothing actually happens. OK, a few things happen.

Motivation is a big question mark right now.

I wrote this earlier today. Now it’s once again 2am so I’ll start fresh with a new post.

I was just too tired to chronicle day 9. I’ll wrap it into day 10.

Amazon recently delivered to our house a five-pound box of plaster-impregnated gauze. In another time, I may not have granted Zeke’s wish for this stuff, which he used several weeks ago in his afterschool art studio to make donut sculptures. But now, hey, we have plenty of time on our hands so why not figure out what to make with five pounds of plaster-impregnated gauze.

Tonight I ordered him a dozen chisel-tip black Sharpies and a package of colored chisel-tip Sharpies. Apparently all the black Sharpies in the house have now been used up because Zeke has done a LOT of drawing over the past week. He has been watching Mo Willems’ daily drawing tutorials since school closed last Monday, and recently we added Grace Lin‘s and Jarrett J Krosockza‘s to the mix. He also watches instructional videos on a couple other YouTube channels. He told me that all the professional artists and illustrators use the thick black Sharpies (which we discovered are called chisel tip) so we figured he should have some.

At bedtime I asked Zeke what he would miss and not miss about school, since we learned this afternoon that Virginia schools will be closed for the rest of the school year. He said his afterschool art studio, his art class, his first-grade teacher, and seeing his beloved kindergarten teacher in the halls. Truthfully, it’s been kind of a rough year for him. All his best buddies from kindergarten either moved away, were rezoned to other schools, or ended up in other classes. He made a couple friends in his first-grade class, but none were as special as those from last year. More significantly, however, he’s struggled to deal with the disruptive behavior of a few kids in his class. There’s enough there to write another whole post about, but what matters is that Zeke has felt a lot of stress at school, and I think he’s a little relieved he doesn’t have to go back. He asked me right before he fell asleep if after the homeschooling is over he’ll be a second grader. I said I imagined so. Hopefully his second grade class will be more peaceful.

As a soon-to-be teenager, however, Zoe will suffer more from having to stay home, I believe. Friends are often your salvation when you’re 13, and Zoe has tight ones. I had already scheduled a Zoom call for her to check in with her squad from school this afternoon. But when we heard the news from Gov. Northam, she asked if she could start the call earlier, then commandeered my computer for the next three hours so she could commiserate and laugh with her friends. She came down to the kitchen twice during the call to get snacks. In terms of schoolwork, Zoe already has years of experience using the school-issued iPads and nearly two years of receiving and completing assignments online. She has been conscientious about her schoolwork so far, although it’s only been a week. I have no idea what the long-term plan will be or how she will respond.

The same can be said of everyone else right now, I suppose. I am feeling surprisingly sanguine at this moment. Today I’ve been angry, frustrated, disappointed, impatient, indignant, exasperated, and just really sad.


Yesterday we enjoyed a nice outing to Shenandoah. We did, in fact, stop at the Apple House and pick up lunch and apple cider donuts. Then we sat in the back of our van, which I had cleaned out and laid blankets down on, to have a little picnic in the parking lot. Then we walked through the woods. After a while we realized we might be on the wrong trail, but by the time we got back to the parking lot to scope out the right trail, we were tired and decided to go home instead. On the way home we listened to Dvorak‘s New World Symphony, which was Randy’s request and seemed fitting as we drove down the mountain. On the way to the park, we listened to a family playlist that we created that morning. I don’t know why I’d never thought of this before because we always have arguments about music in the car, even though we have a tried and true system of taking turns. I guess everyone’s coronavirus creativity is on fire, so I suggested we all add songs to the playlist and put it on shuffle. And it worked! No arguing. And some really funny juxtapositions of songs.

Today Arlington County announced that all parks, dog parks, playgrounds, fields, and basketball and tennis courts are closed. Trails and community gardens are “closed to groups.” The announcement said “exercise or garden alone.” In the past week we’ve seen tons of clumps of teenagers hanging out and playing basketball when we’ve been hiking or walking. We’ve seen little kids on playgrounds. Clearly none of these people were social distancing. I’m going to exercise my judgment that our family group of four can go on a trail together because A) we have been quarantining together and B) our children cannot “exercise alone” on a trail. I know we can work out in our living room, if we move the furniture, but we’ve got to get out of the house sometimes. And I am not a rule breaker by nature.


I am not a superstitious person either. But I keep thinking about how a few months ago I was thinking about what the advantages of homeschooling might be. I started contemplating it after talking with three different women in one week, coincidentally, who were homeschooling their kids. Unlike the stereotypical idea of homeschoolers, none of these families are super religious or conservative or anti-public school as a concept. All of them just realized that their kids’ needs were not being met by their schools, so they decided to do something different. And given the challenges Zeke has experienced in his classroom this year, I started thinking about how it would be nice if I could give him a less stressful environment to learn in. But at the same time, there’s a lot he learns at school that I cannot teach him, and there are things he enjoys, and there are kids there and, oh, professional educators. But now I’ll get my chance!

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