School at Home

I don’t make the mistake that we’re homeschooling. And by “we’re” I mean my wife is and by “homeschooling” I mean coming up with lesson plans, teaching, and ensuring work is done in a meaningful and lasting way. On the other hand, she is taking the comprehensive work plan the school sets out and making sure it’s done properly which is no small feat. I think if we were homeschooling in the true sense, it might be a little bit easier since we would have more flexibility on due dates and might know the material better. But on the other hand, we would have to come up with all this stuff, learn it, AND teach it so let me tell you, I think we’re getting the better end of the deal.

Well, I am anyway. As I said, my wife is doing all of the teaching while I’m doing a lot of the working. She’s balancing work and RR’s school. And she’s planning on going back to school herself so we’ll end up shifting yet again. This entire year feels like it’s shifting constantly. I hate to throw it all on 2020 but, man, it sure feels like a shitshow.

Anyway, school at home is hard. Mothering is hard. Wifing is easier these days (I hope that’s a shared opinion at least). The basement flooded. A bird died in the heater. We had to replace all the cold water pipes. Suffice to say, home-owning is hard. 2020 is hard. What else is new?

Armpits

Just stop now if you are an Armpit Person. I suppose you can take that any number of different ways. The person who loves a nice ripe subway ride in a New York summer. The person who enjoys a pleasant meander through the scent fields on a particularly amorous afternoon. I’m not judging you. But if you aren’t an Armpit Person, carry on, my friend.

I’d wager my nose is more sensitive than most and while I’ve weathered my fair share of pungent predicaments, I never thought I’d be contending with one in my own home. There is nothing quite like a brand new set of pre-adolescent hormones to create a scent soup that wrinkles the nose and waters the eyes. I understand the trouble with anti-perspirants but is it too much to ask for a deodorant that does its job?

I understand I’m asking it to work extremely hard (and I don’t mean fresh as a daisy no smell ever ruin your daughter’s self esteem hard). I’m just asking it to mildly take the sting out of the air. Dancing tactfully through this landmine while preserving said self-esteem is no walk in the park. It’s level ten parenting. I don’t want her classmates to ridicule her but I also don’t want to give her a complex.

After trying many different kinds of deodorants – remember Armpit People, we agreed you would stop at the top! – we’ve finally found one that maybe most of the time can limit the hormonal eau de daughter. But seriously. If you have or had one of these parental predicaments or even your own battle, what deodorant have you found that does the trick? All suggestions welcome – limit dairy? More showers? And the ever popular wait it out. But save my nose friends. Help!

When that Disaster Pays Off

We are so lucky I have a titanium bar in my leg. As we speak, my daughter is in her morning school meeting, my wife is meeting with her boss, and I about to be in a group discussion about my Library’s COVID services. Our internet is plugging away just as hard as it can.

Fifteen years ago, while at work, I was on a deck that collapsed. The wooden platform crashed toward the house, trapping my ankle underneath. It shattered in such a way that it took almost a year to suss out a solution and get surgery to fix it. I’m now up two silicone plugs, six screws, and a bar. That deck was on a commercial property and 15 other people were seriously injured. Necks, backs, legs. There was a lawsuit and the result was a down payment on this small house.

This house has held us up for 11 years. It has weathered an infant and a stable of animals. It’s now hosting remote therapy sessions, two jobs that have moved online, and fifth grade. It just took a disaster to get us here.

Anxiety, of Course

Are there people who aren’t coping with a bit of anxiety right now? We already know I am and my child keeps chewing on her fingers. My wife seems impervious to it all though, so I imagine some of you must also be blissfully floating through a pandemic. An exaggeration, of course, but that’s what it feels like for those of us (me) struggling.

RR started virtual school this week. It’s an every other week thing but this is the first time she’s back at it since last spring. I checked in on her this morning and she was raptly watching her teacher lead but her brow was furrowed and she was crouched over the screen. Can she understand? Is her slow processing speed keeping up?

I still have questions about how the school is supporting the children who need extra help. They have added an additional teacher to the classroom but shifted away the support teacher who was working with her in the spring. RR worked so hard on her math and reading over the summer and I hope she is seeing the results. But what about school overall?

It doesn’t always work for me to wait and see and deal with each thing as it comes. That’s so often what I hear therapists recommending. Less planning, less problem solving. I have choice words for how that makes me feel. But in the meantime, I can pick back up on some of the other things they recommend, starting with a short meditation each day. RR is joining in (OOOHMMM, she says) and hopefully it will help us both.

Ten and Back to School

Is here the right place to say I cannot believe it’s September? Yesterday, we did back to school pictures in the pouring rain and dropped her off at school. At one pm. For three hours. This is a weird fall, from start to finish, and we haven’t even really begun.

Yes, we sent her back to school in person. She’ll have class at the school every other week and, on off weeks, work from home. She’s supposed to be working independently and we are supposed to be available for support and technical assistance. But this spring that was definitely NOT the case and I learned more fourth grade math than I was comfortable with. I hope this year is different since both of us have actual jobs that require actual work.

This is like breast-feeding and cloth diapering all over. The are you sending her to school I can’t believe you’re sending her to school did you know she was sending her to school back and forth is exhausting. I feel like I need to make excuses. But she’s in private school but the group is small but the safety measures are better than acceptable. It’s just a throwback to when she was a baby and I was less confident in what I was doing. I felt all this pressure. It’s like an old wound I’ve picked open again and it’s no one’s fault but my own. 

In other news, 10 is a weird, weird time. RR is on the cusp of so much but still has one foot firmly planted in little girl land. She still plays with her stuffed rabbits and reads picture books some nights before bed. But her demeanor is changing, her whole self is changing, and she is decidedly not a little girl anymore. Not really. It’s hard to negotiate as she flows fluidly from one self to the next and back again. Hard for me, anyway. She seems to be doing just fine.

This is the first time I’ve understood why blogs go silent (aside from the decaying art form of it all). Her self is more her own and the things I would have told you about feel forbidden. But here we still are and, here we’ll stay, for awhile anyway, since this is more about me than her most of the time. Here’s to a weird September.

The State of Things

I’m finding it harder than usual to write anything I’d want to read, let alone you’d want to read. I suppose I’m also finding it hard to say anything either. All my energy goes to work and trying to reopen a large university library system. When it’s done for the moment, and it’s only ever a moment, not an hour or a day, there’s always something, I find that I don’t have brain space to string together a meaningful sentence. For instance, I have incorrectly typed every other word in the paragraph. It’s slow going friends.

We are still waiting on final confirmation from RR’s school that she will be going back at all. We’re hopeful for the modified one week on/one week off schedule they surveyed us about but as the city schools close around us, I’m increasingly worried about that precious week at school. Her entire social life this spring was through facetime and texts. She celebrated her birthday with a socially distanced visit from a friend. This summer we put her in small fully masked 5 person camps off and on. This week we are braving a swim camp that is half masked, half cordoned off swim time. The campers get their own square to swim in. It is still terrifying. Misspelled word count: 15.

Once we visited friends in the northern part of the state, which has a higher virus percentage than we do and we’re about to omg go to the beach in North Carolina for a few days. I’m concerned but I am also burnt out and so, mask bearing and flip flop wearing, we’re going. Maybe it’s the librarian in me, but I feel the need to document all of this. I hope you are doing the same, though oral stories to friends and family, through your own journaling, through photographs and memorabilia. I certainly have a variety of masks that mark each stage of the pandemic. From the early stitched and ill-fitting to the bendy nose area and high tech fabric ones. Even the Disney ones from the trip we couldn’t take that are the thickness and breathability of those large white old-school baby diapers. They are a chronicle in themselves. Misspelled words (including this one): 10.

And so, in this 22nd week of working from home, we are slowly opening up our lives. I hope it’s for the better or the same, but not worse. And, at last, not a single misspelled word.

More Alone

Not too long ago, I complained I was never alone. Now I’m going to be alone in a way I didn’t want to be. On Friday, we will put our beloved dog to sleep. His body can’t hold him up any longer.

It’s heart-breaking to see a dog continue whose body has failed but whose mind is fairly intact. I find myself dissolving at the most unexpected moments and I can’t picture life without him. Why does this seem worse than when my father died?

There’s so much else going on in the world and in my personal life right now. Murders, calls to defund the police, marches, protests, job security, death, uncertainty over absolutely everything. I don’t want to say goodbye to my best friend.

Updates

Explaining anti-racist, anti-fascist movements to my daughter is critical and necessary. I need more words to do this well but I’m doing it anyway.

Moses’ back legs don’t work at all after 10 in the morning. It’s remarkably hard to euthanize a dog in a pandemic. One vet said they’d come out to the car (that we can’t get him into comfortably), another is coming to the house on June 12th. There has been less crying since we made the decision but it’s a little dead man walking (dragging) which is weird.

I don’t know how to do 4th grade math and I’m not optimistic about 5th grade math. With RR’s learning disability, math is going to be a constant feature this summer (as it was last summer and the summer before). She just needs a bit more work than other kids to stay on grade level.

I’ve been enjoying writing to you all. I don’t often comment on others’ writing and I’m going to start doing than more often. The whole process is cathartic so thanks for reading.

Next week is going to be science week. We’re going to make a volcano, experiment with invisible ink, get the slime kit back out, and watch yeast bubble. Other easy projects with household items?

Watching kids write each other letters is adorable. RR has received a letter and some postcards from her friends and her face lights up when she reads them. How can we be bankrupting our postal system?!

Teaching my daughter how to apply deodorant (and explaining why we use it and why she doesn’t have to when she older and can make her own decision) is weird. She has a more pronounced pit hole than I do and getting her to get it in the right place is key to not having a malodorous house.

Summer Camp

Hoo boy friends, it’s a return to the 1970s. There is no summer camp. We’re staring down three full months of free time while still working full-time. My kid is a delight but she isn’t a go outside and come back when the street lights come on kind of a kid. She’s not a curl up with a book kind of kid. She’s an almost 10 and I want to DO something WITH you kind of kid.

This house isn’t really big enough for an in-home day care teenager to spend time with her and, right now, I can’t picture them going out to do anything other than go for a walk. The pools are closed and won’t reopen. The libraries are closed. The parks are closed. Life is closed and it’s hard to conceive of what it will look like when it reopens.

So I’m making schedules in my head. We’ll get them down on paper. There will be reading and math. There will be walks and exploration time. There will be screen time and cooking class. There will be boredom. There will be stressed out parents and a frustrated kid. There will be happiness and laughter. There will be plenty of free time that she’ll figure out how to fill. We’ll work it out.

Alone

Who here is tired of being home with other members of the household? Raise of hands, please, and ignore the fact that both of my arms are waving frantically. Since March 17th I have been at home with my family and while there is a lot of good about it, I am occasionally done with togetherness.

Here’s an example: today I’d like to work from the living room, watching trashy TV and returning emails. It’s something I do when I work from home and I’m surprisingly productive. My brain is able to turn off the distraction and have a pleasantly peaceful work experience. I was fortunate that I could do that for about an hour. But I wanted more, as you do with delicious things that make you feel nice.

But then RR was done with her math work and my wife had a break between meetings and suddenly I’m watching Teen Titans Go and I’m decidedly too distracted to work in the living room, next to my dog, in a cozy chair. Granted, I was in the central living space so it’s no one’s fault but my own. That said, I found myself wishing for just a moment, that I could be alone in the house as I used to be when working from home.

It’s not as if I couldn’t ask for time by myself. My wife would take RR for a walk in a heartbeat and leave me with 20 minutes. On occasion though, I want what I had – a long period of peace in our house – and I’m frustrated that I can’t have it. I’ll bet my wife wishes she had it, too. I’ll bet everyone in this house wishes this were over. But it’s not going to be over, not in the way you might see it as a return to normal and neither one of us is headed back to work anytime soon. It’s a hard pill to swallow.