Home Together Again

It’s official.

We have withdrawn the Bear from daycare and we’re now all home together.

Everything Was Fine

Over the summer, both boys went to daycare. The Bug was in pre-K and the Bear in daycare. Once fall rolled around, the Bug started kindergarten in the public school (distance learning), and the Bear moved up to preschool.

It wasn’t always easy to get the Bear out of the house in the morning. He’s no fool! He knew his big brother was staying home!

Also, he was wary of the transition from daycare to preschool, and he missed his old classmates from the twos classroom.

He loved his new teacher, though, and eventually all was going swimmingly, until a child in his class tested positive for Covid.

Until It Wasn’t

As I wrote at the time, this frightened us a bit. To me, it felt like a reality check that YES THE CORONAVIRUS IS STILL AROUND, and YES WE CAN GET IT!

The school reported the case to the health department, which I was very glad about. I got a call from a contact tracer, and answered all the necessary questions about symptoms, contacts, activities, etc.

Since then, we’ve received daily texts asking us to report on the Bear’s symptoms. It’s easy to do, and so far we’ve had nothing to report.

So really, not that scary.

And yet, today, with two days left to go in our quarantine period and nary a sign of a symptom, we decided to withdraw the Bear from school.

Family Priorities

Talking it over together, the Chico and I agreed that with the onset of the cold weather, these instances of either infection or scares are likely to increase.

Whether anyone gets Covid or not, the kids will all be getting seasonal colds, coughs and sniffles. And each time that happens, we will either have to quarantine until the symptoms pass, or we will have to get tested for Covid.

We decided that though it’s not ideal for either of the boys to be out of school, under the circumstances, we’d rather keep them home.

As the weather gets colder and the days get shorter, we want to be able to spend time indoors with our friends and family. With the Bear in daycare, we wouldn’t feel as comfortable doing that.

However, if we know that our exposure has been limited, then we won’t be so worried about potentially infecting others.

Really it’s a question of controlling our environment as best we can.

Send Help (and/or Wine)

This is not going to be easy. It’s going to take a lot of willpower to keep from resorting to chocolate or wine on particularly relentless days.

The advantage we have now over lockdown in the spring is that the Bug has a schedule. Even though he’s at home, his days are structured, and that helps to set the rhythm for the rest of us.

Morning time is reading/school time (coloring, educational play, stories), we all have a lunch and break together, then afternoon nap for the Bear while the Bug has his afternoon classes.

The afternoons are all about exercise and playing. The boys “help” me with my Pilates (hilarity ensues–laughing burns calories, right?), and they do their Cosmic Kids yoga sessions.

If we can stick to a rhythm, I think we’ll make it through this.

But still, feel free to send wine. It won’t go to waste.

A Double Negative!

We got two pieces of good news today, and both involved negative results.

Do two negatives make a positive? Or is it that a double negative cancels out and makes a positive?

Whatever. All I know is that we had good news.

First Negative: No Breast Cancer Gene!

Now this is good news, in that I am relieved that I do not feel like I need to fear my own body.

However, it’s true that this is no guarantee that I will not get breast cancer. In fact, my mother was also negative for the gene indicators, and she did get breast cancer.

So while it is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, it’s still a relief.

I wrote earlier about there being an expiration date stamped on my butt. Well now, it feels like instead of an expiration date, perhaps it’s more of a sell by date.

Everyone knows you can keep stuff waaaaay after that sell by date, right?

Second Negative: No Covid!

This evening, Chico and I both got our results for the nasal swab test we had yesterday.

We are both negative for Covid! Hooray!

We are, however, still required to quarantine as the Bear was in contact with a positive case only last Friday. We’ve got about 9 more days of quarantine to go.

We’re watching him like a hawk for symptoms and we’re taking our temperatures daily.

Going Forward

Winter is coming. Cold and flu season is upon us. We’ve had our flu shots, (GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!) but I feel like in this, The Time of Covid, any symptom, no matter how mild, is going to make us think, “COVID!”

With that in mind, we have some hard thinking to do, and some decisions to make.

We may withdraw ourselves into our own family lockdown again. Or at least, stay all four of us at home so that we feel more comfortable expanding our bubble to our close family members.

You know: the people we’ll want to see inside when the weather really gets cold.

Meanwhile…

We’re having days like this:

One had a soft landing. The other did not.

The Risks We Run

It’s called a pandemic for a reason.

Over one million people have died worldwide (that we know of). Over 200,000 have died in the United States alone.

Just because we’re tired of social distancing, doesn’t mean the virus is gone. People are still getting sick with Covid-19. The coronavirus gives precisely zero craps about how fed up we are with things.

And So, We Choose Risks.

First, we carefully consider how much risk we are willing to tolerate. Do we get together with a limited group of family members?

Then, we consider the kids. Do we keep them at home? Or do we take the risk and send them to daycare and school?

We kept social distancing, but we returned the kids to daycare. They thrived. We kept up our hand washing routines, health checks. Everyone was fine.

When it came time to make the choice about distance learning vs. hybrid, we opted for distance learning, before the school board reversed its decision to offer a choice and went for only distance learning.

And Then… We Got Used to It.

Pandemic procedures became part of daily life.

The weather was good, the boys were happy. We were spending time outside, so we saw people outside, and it was easy to forget about the pandemic.

We kept wearing our masks, and the children’s teachers were always masked. It all came to seem so normal.

Yesterday, A Child Got Sick.

Yesterday evening, we got a call that a child in the Bear’s daycare class had tested positive for Covid-19.

I cannot imagine how terrifying the situation must be for the family. I’ve since learned that the child is only experiencing mild symptoms, and I pray that continues to be the case.

For me, it’s been a real wake-up call. A reminder that this is still real, and it can happen to us.

Quarantined

So we’re in quarantine. The Chico and I are experiencing mild cold symptoms, so we got ourselves tested for Covid-19 and should have results tomorrow.

Whether we have “the dreaded lurgy” or not, we’ve been given a stark reminder to take this seriously.

If we do have the lurgy, then we’ll see you after quarantine.

If we don’t have it, well, we’ve still got to quarantine at home.

Either Way, We (Won’t) Be Seeing Ya!

Because we’ve got to social distance.

Why I’m Going to Wear My Mask Outside, Too

Yesterday I wrote about how important it is for us all to get our flu shots.

I also slipped in a little additional bonus messaging about wearing a mask.

And that got me thinking.

I’m Being Hypocritical.

I wear a mask when I go into a public building. If someone has to come into my house for some reason, I ask them to wear a mask and I wear one, too.

We have expanded our bubble to include family members who live nearby, and with them we don’t wear masks, but we still maintain distance.

However, the place I have not been wearing a mask is outside on the playground.

“Nobody Else Is!”

This is what I tell myself when I feel a bit guilty and start looking around at the playground.

No other parents are wearing masks.

Everyone is standing apart, no one is getting too close, but no one is wearing a mask.

We figure we’re all outside, and we’re far enough apart.

Not So!

The CDC makes it very clear that wearing a mask in ANY public setting is important to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. They do not distinguish between indoors or outdoors.

This article from a hospital network in New Jersey addresses the question of wearing masks outside.

Here’s when you should wear a mask outside:

  • When it is difficult to maintain the recommended 6-foot social distancing from others (such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy or walking on a busy street or in a crowded neighborhood).
  • If required to by law. Many areas now have mandatory masking regulations when in public.

Here’s when you don’t need to wear a mask outside:

  • You’re in your backyard or on personal property and it is very unlikely that you’ll end up within 6 feet of someone else.
  • You are in any other secluded location where the likelihood of running into someone else is very low.
  • You are in either of the previously mentioned environments with someone you’ve been quarantined with.
  • You are under two years old or have a condition where wearing a mask would inhibit your health.
  • You are engaging in “high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activities” or when in the water.
  • You are eating or drinking outdoors.

Source: Dr. Frank Elliot, “Should You Wear a Mask Outside”, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org, updated 07/09/2020, accessed 09/19/2020, https://www.hackensackmeridianhealth.org/HealthU/2020/04/20/should-you-wear-a-mask-outside/.

The Playground is Unpredictable

Unless you’re refusing to set foot on the playground and you’re sitting off to the side, far away from others, it is VERY difficult to keep six feet away from everyone else.

Kids are running all over the place, and their parents are chasing after them.

There’s no telling when suddenly, albeit briefly, you may be within inches of another person’s face.

I’m not going to risk it. I’m going to wear a mask. And by so doing, I’ll be protecting myself, those other kids and their parents, too.

The Question Is Now…

Do I make my children wear them?

Or simply keep them off the playgrounds?

Get Your Flu Shots

Today’s message is short and sweet:

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS!!!

Why? Because you don’t want to get the flu. You don’t want the people around you to get the flu.

The flu SUCKS. It kills people every year. Our Bear had it when he was nine months old, and it was SCARY. He had to have an inhaler for a year after because it had inflamed his bronchial tubes.

You don’t want your kid on an inhaler.

GET YOUR FLU SHOTS.

Because of the Pandemic: Get Your Flu Shots

This year especially, you’ll want to get a flu shot.

Assuming they get the mix right and it’s an effective vaccine this year, you want to make sure you’re protected from influenza.

The coronavirus is still out there. People are still dying of it.

It’s bad enough that we have a pandemic, we don’t want to also be dealing with a flu epidemic. If you get symptoms of fever, headache, etc., you don’t want to ask yourself whether you’re dealing with flu or coronavirus.

Eliminate the possibility that it’s the flu.

Get your flu shots.

Show How Much You Care

Do you care about your neighbors? Your family? The people in your local grocery store?

Do you care about your elderly relatives? Your small children? Your nieces and nephews?

Then WEAR A MASK.

Oh psych! You thought I was going to say get a flu shot! What the hell!

DO BOTH!

WEAR A MASK. GET YOUR FLU SHOT.

You don’t live in a bubble. Your choices (or refusal to make a choice, which in itself is a choice) have an effect on the people around you.

Don’t be that person. Don’t give grandma the flu OR the coronavirus.

Do what’s right.

Wear a mask. Get a flu shot.

Change of Plans

We’re on Day 3 of distance learning of kindergarten, and I have realized several things:

  1. Our son has incredible focus and does amazingly well participating in class over the computer.
  2. We are EXTREMELY LUCKY that this is the case, because man! This is not easy.
  3. Despite his patience and being engaged, an out-of-home distance learning program is NOT for us.

Now Don’t be Judging

Yes, we had originally planned to put the Bug into a distance learning program.

He and the Bear have actually been back at their preschool since July. We decided that after months of being at home, that they were simply too miserable.

They’ve been going half days, and it’s been like night and day. They are so happy, energized and glad to be surrounded by their peers.

Their groups have been small, and their teachers are all masked. We’ve been very happy with their school’s policies and its cleanliness.

Seeing how happy they were to be with peers, we thought it would be best to enrol the Bug in a distance learning program.

That way, while he was doing school online, at least he would be surrounded by peers and would be able to interact with other kids.

Turns out that’s not really how distance learning support programs work.

Why They’re a Life Saver

First off I should say that these distance learning programs offered by community centers, daycare centers, churches and sports centers are definitely a life saver for working parents.

We know many households of two working parents, and the expectations for distance learning, even for kindergarteners, are quite high.

For kids to be in a place where they are safe, taken care of, and monitors are helping them is very important.

However, we found some issues with the out-of-home distance learning program we tried.

Why It Wasn’t For Us

The Bug was to go to our local sports center, which is part of our homeowner’s association. He knows the place, though the people were new to him.

I had every confidence that the director and monitors would do their very best. Their normal job is to run after school programs, so while facilitating distance learning is new for them, they’re seasoned professionals when it comes to working with kids.

The main issue we encountered was one that I don’t know any distance learning program could solve.

There were eleven children of all elementary school ages in the program. Our Bug was one of only two kindergarteners. The other kindergartener is doing DL from a different school. So while their schedules were similar, they were not the same.

Each kid was plugged into their computer with headphones, joining into their DL classes. I think there were only two kids who were in the same DL class.

The issue is, that even though the monitors and facilitators have the kids’ schedules, within the class periods on their schedule, the teachers have the kids take short breaks.

Especially for kindergarten kids, they’re only doing face-to-face blocks of about 15-20 minutes. Then they get a 15 or 20 minute break before coming back. But if the kids are on their headphones, how are the monitors to know it’s break time? How are they to know what instructions the teachers have given the kids?

Our Bug is a smart cookie, but he couldn’t always remember exactly what his teacher said about what he had to do next.

The result was that he ended up spending most of the day sitting in front of his screen with his headphones on. When he did have an official break in his schedule, he looked around to find that he was the only kid on break right then.

So essentially, while surrounded by other people and kids, he was still alone. It was very isolating for him.

(I should note that had we decided to keep him there, he would have been just fine. But my gut told me that he wouldn’t thrive.)

And So We’re Home

I’m set up in the next room, writing or studying, and I have one ear trained on what’s going on in the Bug’s class.

Whenever it’s break time, he knows how to turn off his camera and either plays happily in his room, or comes to find me and we have a break together.

Because I’ve heard his teacher’s instructions, I know when to get him settled and ready to start class again.

It’s going to be hard. I’m going to feel like I can’t get anything done, and there will be ups and downs.

We may also have to find another outlet for him to interact with other kids. Perhaps soccer, tennis, or something like that.

For now, though, we’ll take one day at a time.

As For the Other One…

The Bear is still going to preschool every week day. He’s completely mad for his teacher and doesn’t want to leave school when I go pick him up.

As I said, we’re taking one day at a time, and if for any reason we don’t feel comfortable, we’ll keep both boys at home and somehow make it work.

For all those who are at home with their kids and are juggling work, my hat is off to you. You are superheroes. Remember:

This, too, shall pass.

Won’t it?

First Time Volunteering

Today I volunteered for the first time with the Loudoun Medical Reserve Corps.

What is an MRC?

Your town or county almost certainly has one.

It’s a volunteer program where medical professionals and other, non-medically qualified people can register to volunteer.

MRC members will be called upon to do any number of things:

  • Staff testing facilities for disease;
  • Be present at small & large public events to help with health information;
  • Man call center helplines to answer health questions;
  • Provide logistical support to medical professionals in an emergency;
  • And more.

I originally signed up for the MRC because I figured I could make calls for contact tracing from home.

A First Time for Everything

Today I participated in my first MRC volunteering activity, and I felt like the most useless, least qualified person there.

It was a door-to-door COVID-19 testing drive in an apartment complex. Earlier in the week, volunteers had put door hangers on all the apartment doors, and our job today was to make contact with residents who had indicated they wanted to be tested.

I was not qualified to administer the test, nor was I even qualified to handle the samples. I wasn’t even trained to be on the registration team, gathering people’s information before the test.

Most of the other volunteers were either experienced medical professionals or long-term volunteers who had way more training than I did.

I was on logistics: sweeping the buildings to identify which apartments had door hangers, restocking supplies when needed, and helping the testing teams move their kit to the different apartment buildings.

By the end, though it didn’t seem like I had done much, it felt like my hands had contributed to making light work.

More is Needed

Our local MRC will be called upon to continue staffing these pop-up testing sites.

Also, with early in-person voting starting on September 18th in Virginia, the elections board has asked the MRC to be present at testing sites to provide COVID-19 awareness guidance, ensure social distancing and provide hand sanitizer and face masks if necessary.

If you’re looking for ways to contribute in this time of crisis, this might be a good way.

Remember, you don’t have to be a medical professional (I’m certainly not!), and you can start off with a pretty basic level of training.

If you want to be able to do more jobs, you can always complete further training.

Planning to Return

As the MRC is called upon to help out, I will sign up whenever possible. Every little bit is helpful, and these groups need volunteers!

So please consider joining!

Anyone’s Guess

What. A. Mess.

Here in the States, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is pressuring schools to fully reopen for classes this fall.

All the while limiting federal funding to schools, causing states and counties to have to make budget cuts to already woefully underfunded schools.

Like I said, it’s a mess.

Offering Options

Our local school board has offered two options for the fall semester this year:

  1. 100% distance learning, using online platforms and video call-ins.
  2. Hybrid model, where children go to school two days a week and do distance learning for the other three.

Parents are required to choose one option by next week. The choice is binding for the fall semester, and once made it cannot be changed.

Making A Choice…

We talked about it, considered the options, read and listened to information from health officials and from the school board.

We also thought about what is best for our rising kindergartener, what he needs in a learning environment.

We logged onto the parent portal and made our selection. No going back now.

…And Sticking To It

And then the doubt set in.

I made the mistake of logging onto social media to see what others had chosen.

Many people have remained quiet, but many are extremely vocal about their choice. And those most vocal had chosen the other option.

Immediately, I started to question my decision. Did I have all the facts? Did we really make the best choice for our child? Or did we choose the most convenient option for ourselves?

The more I cogitated, the more anxious I became. I worked myself up into nearly a frenzy when I remembered that once made, the selection cannot be changed.

My Calming Force

I melted into tears, I was convinced we had made the wrong choice!

And then I spoke to my husband.

Have I mentioned on this blog how wonderful the man is? [Quick pat on the back to myself for choosing a great husband.]

He quietly listened to my fears. His calming presence and soothing “Mmhmms” and “Uh-huhs” calmed me down. He then, very wisely, reminded me of a key fact:

Nobody has the right answer.

This is a scary situation. The schools are doing their best to keep children and staff members safe. Parents want to make the best decision for their families.

And while the CDC and state health departments can offer guidance, they do not have all the answers.

No one does.

So, my Chico lovingly told me, there is no wrong choice. There are two right choices, and we must pick the one we feel is best for our family.

And those people, he said, who are so forceful and seemingly confident about their choice on social media are simply trying to convince themselves that they have made the right decision.

But of course they have. Because it is the right decision for their family. And we have made the right decision for ours.

It’s Done, Anyway

I felt better immediately.

But even if I hadn’t, there’s not a whole lot I could do about it. Our choice is made, and though I have doubts and insecurities, deep down I feel that it is the right decision for our family.

We’ll see where it goes, what happens in the fall. What is clear is that if this pandemic takes off again, no one will have any choice at all: the schools will shut down.

In the meantime, we’re wearing masks, washing our hands and choosing to trust our own judgment. A judgment based on the information that is available to us.

A Special Word to School Staff

Stay safe, everyone. Especially school staff.

We love you and value you.

And I will make this promise: I promise to vote whenever possible for the candidate whose platform highlights school funding, so that all schools have the ability to keep their staff and students safe in this pandemic.

A Judicious Use of Silence

Today’s prompt got me thinking about how I’m trying to learn to BREAK silence, rather than keep it. But in an effort to lighten up a bit, here’s one about staying silent.

43. The Sound of Silence: Write about staying quiet when you feel like shouting.

https://thinkwritten.com/365-creative-writing-prompts/

“Ma-MAAAAAH!! HE HIT ME!!!”

Before the pandemic, this cry would elicit an almost immediate response from me.

“Don’t hit your brother!” for minor infractions.

“Go to your room!” for slightly more serious crimes.

“THAT’S IT, I’M TAKING AWAY [insert favorite toy here]!” for the most grievous offenses.

But as the pandemic wore on…

I became inured to the call, impervious to their cries.

Don’t get me wrong, there are certain things I will not tolerate (just ask me how I dealt with a biting habit).

But when it comes to the whiny, peevish cries of, “He pushed me!” “He hit me!” “He took my toy!”… At this point, I am basically deaf to them.

A Newborn’s Cries

You know how parents learn to understand their newborn’s cries? One for hungry, one for sleepy, one for fussy, another for gassy…

It’s actually pretty easy to tell when your child is seriously upset or injured. Just by listening closely to their shouts, I can tell whether my 5- and 2-year-old are actually in pain, or if they’re just kvetching.

So now, when they kvetch, I say nothing.

Blissful Silence

After the initial outcry, when they realize no response is forthcoming, they usually simmer down.

They’ll move on, either play something else together or each move on to his own thing.

It’s only when the outbursts become more frequent and reach a fever pitch that I then intervene.

And then, it’s usually to throw them outside, down to the playroom, or to their respective rooms.

And enjoy a few more minutes of blessed silence.

And maybe a cup of tea…

Lockdown Mode

It’s official! Our governor has joined many in imposing a stay-at-home order.

Other than grocery shopping, medical care, going to essential jobs or getting exercise, we have to stay inside!

UNTIL JUNE THE TENTH.

June 10th. JUNE TENTH.

That is… Let me see… MORE THAN TEN WEEKS FROM NOW.

That is just mind-boggling. We’ve already been home for two weeks, and just the thought of not being able to leave the house for any extended purpose for that long is enough to set me nervously twitching.

What can I say that you don’t already know?

This is HARD. This is BORING. It’s CONFINING. It’s ANXIETY-PROVOKING.

It’s so many things in ALL CAPS.

Learning to live with it

This situation has brought forward so many insecurities I had about myself as a mother, a spouse, a housekeeper, a knitter… Even as a reader.

(Yes, you can be insecure about your reading skills, choices, tastes…)

I’ve had a lot of time to look long and hard at my insecurities. And as I look at them, they gradually lose some of their frightening power. It’s like I’m getting to know them all, one by one.

I’m becoming more aware of insecurities I didn’t know I had, and little by little coming to understand them.

That’s not to say I’ll come out of social distancing cured of all my ills and ready to take on the world like She-Ra.

Though I can still dream…

But perhaps this time in social isolation will help me to better accept my insecurities and understand how they play on me.

And who knows? Maybe I’ll figure out how to face one or two of them.