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.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Lots of adult conversations happen in our house. Are the pipes really failing? What’s the budget look like right now? Is she ever going back to school? How are interest rates? Should we refinance the house? Are we going to have to put the dog to sleep? And how does this pandemic affect…well, everything? Lots of adult conversations and very little adult time.

You know what else we have? A pair of little ears that want to know about EVERYTHING. What are you talking about? What does investment mean? Why doesn’t the grocery store have food? Will I miss school in the fall? What do you mean no camps? Most of the time we catch ourselves before we launch into adult talk but she seems to always be there.

I know we’re not alone in this (we’re never alone it seems) so what is there to do but send her to play in her room? She desperately wants to know what we’re talking about so she doesn’t want to do anything else but listen. It’s like we’re the most interesting people on the planet. Maybe during a pandemic we are.


For as much time as I spend wondering if we’re qualified to homeschool our child, I spend time thinking about how privileged we are as a family. RR has comprehensive lessons provided by her teachers, not just math and reading but co-curriculars, like music, ecology, and art. She has multiple devices with which to do her work and multiple rooms in the house where she can do it. She uploads her work and gets feedback from her teachers. She still has a book club and her friends are all there (who also have fast enough internet) and parents to keep them on track with reading. As I reread that paragraph, I realize I haven’t done it justice.

RR’s teachers have not only replicated her school experience, they have enriched it. The personal attention is still there plus some. She’s getting individual attention from learning specialists whom she normally would only have seen in a group setting. Her teachers hold office hours, including the technology teachers, to help with anything that might go off the rails. At times her lessons seem like private tutoring. Not to mention the fact that she has two adults attuned to her every educational need.

Her workspace is large and well-lit, there is a whiteboard, printer, scanner, clock, calendar, chest of small plastic drawers stocked with pencils, art supplies, paper, notebooks, etc that the school provided. She has everything she needs for an optimal learning experience and she appears to be soaking it up. She has us. We have jobs that are flexible enough to allow us to be with her.

We are so very lucky.

Spring Break

Spring Break is nearly upon us. We know for certain that the teachers won’t be teaching (if they ever needed a break, the time is now) and it leaves us with an entire week to structure for RR. We’ll keep up some of the language and math – we know she needs it – and come up with something, anything else to do.

This is made more complicated by the fact that both of us are working from home. I read something that resonated with me: We are not working from home, we are in a crisis working in our houses. In fact, we are working in a crisis and it’s exhausting balancing everything. So what to do for a week of open-ended time for a person who wants nothing more than to watch youtube and hang out with us?

I know I spent time outdoors finding things to do, but this child isn’t that kind of child. Maybe she could be if I sent her out more often but the fact is, right now, she isn’t. And, before I go further, let me be clear that I know how fortunate we are to get this time with our child. That this is an unquantifiable, incomparable gift. But my stars, if I have to listen to five days of Why can’t I play games on my iPad. It’s not a school day, I’ll take that gift and crumple it right up.

So, help me with a list of stuff to do. Parameters: won’t go to the mountains, can’t wander around shops, limited ingredients for baking, low tolerance for pillow forts and mama-centric pretend. Here’s what I have so far:

Scavenger hunt
Rearrange bedroom
One board game per day
Some math and language everyday
Making breakfast for dinner
Painting a tape on canvas painting
Making ice cream
Choosing a recipe to make that she’s never made
Raking mulch and planing flowers
Taking a walk to the river with the dog
Talking with friends

What else have you got?

School Continues

We had barely a three day disruption in school for RR. The teachers turned from a completely in-person curriculum to an online, Zoom-based, set of lessons and meetings. They have done a remarkable job considering that Montessori for fourth graders still relies heavily on hands-on work. Strike that, it’s not even considering, it’s just remarkable. Impressive.

We’ve had a full week of lessons, including PE and literature circle, geometry and foraging hikes, geography and reading circles. She has talked to her teachers and seen all of her friends. She’s starting to FaceTime with other friends in her class as parents loosen up previously tight online restrictions.

I mentioned crying in the last post and if there’s anything I could cry over, it’s this. It’s profound gratitude for her teachers and her school. It’s a heart swollen with the love and kindness from her school. It’s the lucky feeling I have as I watch schools struggle to keep from capsizing.

She’s going to miss her first overnight trip away from us and it’s a milestone taken by this virus. She was excited and apprehensive and when the videos came showing what she would have done on an ecology trip to the Chesapeake Bay, and she watched with regret. I’m glad she’s not missing a graduation but it was a first that she’ll have to wait a year to have. 

I wanted to write, “assuming we go back to normal”, but we will right? Soon.  

For Posterity

I usually start posts in a note to myself and then work on them bits at a time until they are ready to go. I probably delete 50% of them for being too something. Too short, too long, too whiney, too radical, too whatever. The one I was working on seems so inconsequential that I didn’t bother to finish it before dumping it. Everything seems inconsequential.

I read somewhere that journaling is a way to keep yourself sane during a pandemic. Moreover, journaling is important work during a pandemic. I assume so that someone someday can read it during their own pandemic and think aha, here is what we should have done. That family, they were doing it right. Except I’m not entirely sure if it’s possible to do it right. Also it’s probably no one will ever read this but you, Reader, and since we’re going through it together, it won’t do us much good.

But let’s commiserate anyway. Here’s my part of it. Homeschooling and working is rough. I think we’re lucky RR’s school is still providing lessons for the children (and remarkably well-done lessons) and I, in particular, am lucky my wife has been able to pick up the homeschooling so I can focus on work. RR, for her part, is an excellent distance student who grows more, and more bouncy during the week so that today, Friday, she is off the walls. 

Spring Break is coming. I’m afraid the teachers will stop work for a week. We can’t take RR anywhere. I’m going to go insane.

We had to cancel our Spring Break trip to Disneyworld and while it’s not the end of the world, it’s a disappointment. I’m feeling it heavily, not because I was dying to stick on a pair of mouse ears, but because it meant a road trip, an adventure, time away from work that was truly time away. And now, nothing. More of the grind. I’m sure that’s also how her teachers feel. It’s hard on everyone.

I want to cry over this but I’d want time alone to do it. That’s in short supply but, when I have it, I find I can’t cry anyway. It seems so futile. It also seems painfully self-indulgent. Put on big girl pants, work, love my family, persevere. 

On the humorous side, our desks are in the basement where there is a support pole for the house. RR, twirling around it, said, “I need to stay on the pole, mama” and I wonder if this is a sign of the future. 

Tropical Nut Island

Three-year-old RR gave us the saying Tropical Nut Island. Long time readers will remember that it’s how she referred to herself over a short period of time, usually shouting at the top of her lungs, “I’m a TROPICAL NUT ISLAND!” The non-nut island folks near and dear to her have never figured out where this came from but we can dissect its meaning well enough. When she was three, it meant running around, hair flying, arms waving, laughing. Craziness, we called it. Now, at nine, it feels more like Enough Already.

The other day she brought her Tropical Nut Island self to the observatory where we were having an intimate gathering of co-workers and their families to sky gaze through the giant telescope. There were other children there – a 4 and 5 year old – and a few adults, all of whom were ushering the little ones calmly from place to place. Our child eventually laid on the floor and spun herself in a circle. I don’t think she was bored, rather the opposite. She just had nowhere for the enthusiasm to go. Now we call it ADHD but not I’m going to take you home right now. I truly think she was doing the best she could to find an outlet for the bouncing inside her head.

I’m probably the stricter of the two of us, with a (probably needless) focus on manners and seemliness. But even my wife’s body language was WTF even though she, mostly calmly, snapped at RR to get up. RR was a bit dismayed as being sharply spoken to but I’m 100% with my wife on this one. There’s no floor spinning outside of your own house. At home, with just your family, spin all you want. Not that she ever has. This was…new.

Mostly her ADHD manifests as distraction and wandering. She either has a laser-like focus on what she’s doing or she has no focus. There’s no middle of the road. The resurgence of Tropical Nut Island made me question whether we’re doing her a disservice by not looking into medication. I have really complicated feelings about that and it wasn’t recommended, not yet, so I have a spit of time to wonder about why my feelings are so complicated and what we’re going to do about that. In the meantime, welcome to Tropical Nut Island.


I found myself bothered the other day. Bothered because I was whining (in my head), and muttering (silently) about how it isn’t fair. Both things that bother me. I really don’t like hearing it’s not fair, especially when it’s said with a high pitched whine which, have you ever heard a sentence so likely to be whined? It’s not fair that we’re out of grandparents.

Here I am, surrounded by kids accompanied by fit grands, ones that are able and willing to take the kids to roller skate or gymnastics. Who take the kids out for dinner and ice cream. Who are generally present in their lives. Who appear to be putting the kids first without having made the day about themselves. So now you can see where I’m going with this.

We’re not totally out of grandparents, we still have one – my mother. But I think it’s well established that she’s not up to doing any of the above. Especially the bit about putting RR first. RR never knew Debra’s father although time has shined up his memory for all of us. He was probably the most fit to be a grandfather, even though he would have been quite elderly. Then we lost Debra’s mother, who would have been great at hanging out with RR at home but wouldn’t have been up to excursions or stepping in to help out if needed. My father followed her – the first grandparent RR really got to know before losing. Still, his last two years were filled with cancer and she was so little. And now we’re left with one. And since she moved away and isn’t the best communicator (especially with me) we’re out of grandparents altogether.

I do sound like I’m whining, I know. It feels like the only place where it’s halfway acceptable. It’s not fair. I’d like a grandparent like the ones I see holding hands with their grandkids. Just one would be okay.


My childhood self would have very much liked to be in a Montessori school, I think. Ours in particular. We had the chance to observe RR’s classroom and it was a revelation. All of the children were focused and working on different tasks, a lesson on finding areas was going on in one corner and another on geography in the quiet ecology space. Even my child, the one full of vim and vigor, was settled on her knees, deep into square roots.

I’m sure there are days when the volume is louder and the kids more antsy. Just as there are days where a stillness falls over the room. But I imagine the sheer number of places to work – carpet, tables, comfy corners for reading, a laptop area, even outside – mean that the kids have just enough room to spread out. And by kids I mean all 30 or so of them. It’s not a small class. At one point, the sun came out from behind the clouds casting warm light over the entire classroom, leaving the kids with little halos of sunbeams.

Every month when a bagillion dollars comes out of my account, I think of this classroom and these teachers. The kids with their work ethics. And, of the gorgeous grounds over which they have the independence to roam. It hurts, the money, but we are so very lucky that we can do it at all. Very, very lucky.

ADHD part 2

You should know that I really appreciate your comments and offers to chat about RR’s ADHD diagnosis. We were altogether hesitant to tell anyone, including RR, and it has made it easier to know that there’s a semi-silent (not everyone, I know, but lots!) army out there who are meeting things like ADHD and all of its cousins head on.

One of my biggest concerns in telling RR was that she would start to use it as an excuse or a crutch. That may sound harsh – it is, after all, nothing she’s doing on purpose. I’ve had some up close and personal adult ADHD professional interactions over the last couple of years that have left me in despair, yes, actually. From what I understand though, these folks are perhaps not managing their diagnosis or need help finding new methods of management that would help their professional lives stay…professional. And that’s enough said about that.

This diagnosis is having wider repercussions on the family and we’re seeing a family therapist to find coping mechanisms that work well for all of us. No medication was recommended at this point but as school gets more demanding I can see us getting there. I worry that, outside of her Montessori environment, she might be less successful. That’s several years away though and while I’m a worrier, no need to borrow trouble.

Speaking of, I was also reticent to tell the school and concerned that they would…I don’t know. Kick her out? They aren’t obligated to provide services for her. It’s not like an IEP situation that she might have in public school. But they were, as I should have known, wonderful, and I’ve felt like her teachers and the learning specialists have all been on top of it, low key, and supportive. We’re winning all around.

As for RR, she seems satisfied to know there’s a reason she struggles to be attentive and hasn’t once used it as an excuse. So far, it’s the best possible situation. Thank you again for telling your stories and lending your support. It’s appreciated more than you know.