Monday, April 27, 2020

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming

Clearly I just needed to have a big tantrum and feel sorry for myself and get a lot of the mad out.

I have it much, much easier than so many people. I know this. I feel guilty about this.

And I'm grateful. I'm just not grateful every moment and sometimes I need to verbally lie on the floor and pound my fists and stomp my feet.

So thank you for letting me do that and being sympathetic instead of telling me to stop being a solipsistic, privileged turd.

So now where are we?

It's Friday Saturday Monday.

Wanda has been doing online dog training.

I mean, we meet with the trainer online, and then we do the training in person.

Wanda's computer skills aren't strong enough. Also, I'm not so sure about her commitment to education.

Our Wanda has many positive attributes. She is a lovely, kind, patient dog who puts up with a lot of shenanigans, particularly from India.

We weren't sure if she knew her name in the beginning. Now we are 100% certain she knows her name. She just pauses to decide whether or not she wants to come.

She also pulls on the leash. And she's strong.

She pulls extra hard when there is some highly suspect rotting pizza crust that she desperately wants to snarf before we can manage to stop her.

I would like these things to improve.

My friend Jen has this amazing dog trainer, but he's in North Carolina. Jen was offering me training tips, and sent me videos, and her dog that went through training is just beautifully trained.

So when she told me they were doing online courses, I was delighted.

One, we need to train Wanda. Two, it's very nice to have something concrete, with measurable goals, to focus on.

It's still the first week. We meet online every Wednesday to go over the next week's assignments.

In the past week, I've spent a whole lot of time walking and running a triangle in the park. You choose points 50 feet away from each other, and then walk the dog on a long line, but with different parameters every two days.

Most people seem to have yards. I was like, well, let's see how our local park goes.

The first day, two affable drunk men wanted my attention every time I was near their bench, which was close to Triangle Point B.

It's DC, and I'm used to drunks in the park, so I just said hi back (each time) and then focused on the task at hand.

Today and tomorrow the goals are to get her to stay within two feet while walking. She gets farther than that and you run in the other direction and go back to the starting point.

I have done a lot lot lot of running back and forth in the park. A lot.

The trainer wants us to submit videos so he can see how we are doing. India has been my videographer, and as such, there are a lot of minutes of sky or grass.

Yesterday I was really bummed, wondering if Wanda was ever going to be willing to follow. I was panting as I counted off the 15 seconds at each point before resuming.

She is stubborn. But so am I.

Today I could see progress, and feel much more heartened.

As it turns out, the photos and videos are aimed at my butt half the time, and I mean, whatever, we all have butts. I just don't spend so much time watching mine run the other direction.

Also, I am on the verge of getting Nick to cut my hair. It is making me crazy.

If you've ever had short hair and tried to grow it out, you know that it inevitably gets a poof somewhere that you don't want. And it's flat where a poof might be nice.

Or maybe this is just me.

And if you're growing out your hair and also dye it with semipermanent pink, because you felt like that would be a good distraction, then there is the added je ne sais quoi of roots and half-pinkness as well as the poofing and sticking to your head as you run back and forth from lamppost to tree like a maniac.

It's all going pretty well, is what I'm saying.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Ha ha ha, bless your soul/You really think you're in control?

I am not doing well today.

Today I have yelled at both children. I have stomped upstairs twice like an angry kid. I have thought hateful thoughts about the people I love most in the whole world.

The day started with India stomping around in a foul mood. I finally coaxed her onto my lap, where she cried. We agreed this is hard. We're doing our best.

And then, when we discussed today's schedule--because we are trying hard to be on some sort of schedule--my kids lost it. Two different hours of school work?

And about this schedule. I will tell you, I have told you, that organization is not my strong suit.

I suck at outlines. In school I would get so hung up on the parallel. Is this B of equal importance to A? Or should it be a small a? But then there's no B. Shit. There has to be a B if you're going to  have an A.

As an adult I said screw it and all my outlines just have lines. No real hierarchy.

That's also how my email is. And my computer. Nick has folders and subfolders. For me, it's all just there.

I think this is how my brain is.

And at the moment, I'm confused. I can't organize. Everything feels elusive.

Nick got what felt like was all judgey about how we're spending our days. Which is with a lot of TV. Because, well, there are a lot of becauses.

Honestly, I just want to get back in bed. Like, all the time. Sometimes everything feels so heavy that it hurts to stay awake.

This is another way in which I feel like I'm failing. I have the energy to work out, to take my kids on a walk with the dog, but I don't have the energy to fight. You don't want to read in Spanish? You don't want to math?

It doesn't feel worth the fight. But then I'm failing in getting them to do what they're supposed to be doing.

But back to my no good horrible suck ass day, or whatever that book title is. Which is also really just kind of a continuation of all the days before it, just that I hit a point of not being able to deal with patience and compassion.

India lay down on the floor flailing, screaming, stomping. It was a tantrum like she used to have when she was little.

She calmed down and started pulling at her glasses frames.

At which point I yelled, "DON'T BREAK YOUR GLASSES!"

And then she started to cry and Jordan turned to me and yelled, "YOU'RE A JERK!"

And then Nick sent me upstairs.

Which is where I was heading in a rage anyway. Because he goes to work and I deal with all the bullshit.

And then he comes home and when I ask he says his day was stressful.

And I think, seriously? Did any of your employees have a screaming fucking fit about brushing their fucking teeth? Did you have to cajole, struggle, bribe any of your clients into their fucking socks and shoes to take a walk in nature to improve their moods? Did anyone shit all over you when you tried to get them to do a minuscule amount of work? Do they tell you they're SO BORED every 10 minutes?

No? Huh.

And then, then I also feel like a big fucking loser.

Because most parents are having to maintain their jobs during this. They have to do actual work, and get their kids to do something constructive, or at least keep them entertained and fed.

Me, now, my entire job is keeping my children from losing their everloving minds, feeding them, and making them do a modicum of schoolwork.

And when Jordan was a jerk about doing an online Spanish book, first telling me how stupid it was, then being rude when I couldn't immediately locate the one he wanted, and then reading out loud in the gringo-est accent he could muster, I lost my shit.


This is approximately what I yelled. At the top of my voice.

My throat hurt after I did it.

Jordan burst into tears. My mother went to comfort him. I went back upstairs.

India came up after a bit and said, "Do you need a hug?"

I do. I really, really do.

Friday, April 03, 2020

SD: Team Sanity

Selfie panoramic had somehow never occurred to me...
Last week I was in a conversation on FB with other moms from our school.

I confessed that we'd done nothing in terms of schoolwork. My kids were having a hard enough time without the stress of trying to force them to do math.

And my friend Erum said she was all for Team Sanity. So that's how I've been thinking about it: Team Sanity.

Yesterday my son had a 5th grade video chat. Bless the teacher, who spent at least 50% of the time explaining to them that they only get to unmute their microphones when it is their turn to speak.

That way, she explained, if your sister (ahem) is bugging you, or the dog (also ahem) is pushing her way in (because you encouraged her), or your mom asks you what you want for lunch (not ahem) or whatever, everyone else in the class doesn't hear it.

One kid kept turning her microphone back on unintentionally. All the other kids thought this was hilarious.

Bless our teachers, who always work so hard, and are rising to this extra challenge.

Teachers have called to check in, and I have been completely honest: we've done almost nothing academic.

I have to fight guilt and anxiety over this.

I mean, I'm in the extraordinarily lucky position of not currently having a job I have to juggle along with having my children home all day.

I have so many friends who are working full time and trying to get their kids to follow the lessons that the school is providing. And compared to them I think, what the fuck am I doing?

We are doing some online learning. India has done some math and Spanish. Both kids are reading a ton. This is something. But it is not the math and science and Spanish and writing that Jordan is supposed to be doing.

Neither of them are interested in writing projects, despite cajoling.

And so mostly I'm letting them just hang out.

Because the fact is that I struggle with my children to brush their teeth twice a day, which is one thing I cannot compromise on. Bedtime takes a lot of energy.

I mean, seriously. We brush our fucking teeth every single day. We go to bed every single night. How is this an appalling surprise, an affront to their very way of life, ever single damn day?

My son rarely does homework, because he gets upset about things like the repetition, or gets very worked up about making his writing perfect, and any small mistake can derail him. He's better than he was, but us doing homework means me sitting next to him the whole time and then, forcing myself to stay calm when he gets worked up, and supporting him in calming himself down.

It's a drama trauma almost every time, is what it is.

And now that we're spending all our time together, I'm not spending our days like this. DC just announced that while they don't yet have a set date, we will not be going back to school April 27.

This means we have a lot more days at home in front of us.

It's an extraordinary time in history. It might be a lost academic year for my kids. I can live with this.

I'm far more interested in household harmony. In behaving in a loving manner. If I'm constantly angry because I'm trying to get my kids to do things they do not want to do, it means I'm not good at being gentle with them when they need me.

And right now, they really need me. They both need a lot of my attention. They get upset easily. They want reassurance.

Some days, India is on me, like physically stuck to me, the way she was a baby. The other day I sat with her in the big red chair, and I cuddled her, and I explained how we sat in that chair the first few months of her life, and she would eat and then fall asleep on my chest and I would read.

I read and read. I read all but one of the Game of Thrones books. And they were long. The truth is that at some point I started skipping the chapters of the characters I disliked. Theon Greyjoy? Skip.

The positive of this was that when I watched the show, some things were total surprises to me!

I still feel bitter about how they ended it.

That's an aside.

We have much better days together if we focus on doing art projects, and talking to each other, doing puzzles and playing games.

My mom and India and I sat together making Sculpi...things. I wound up not baking anything I made. They looked better in my mind than they actually turned out.

So I voiced this guilt, this anxiety about not forcing my kids to do online learning, and in response, a friend sent me something that basically said to take care of your kids' mental health first and foremost. Our kids aren't going to remember what they learned during this time--they're going to remember how they felt.

This resonated with me.

When they look back on this, if what stays with them is the feeling of being loved, of being cuddled tight, of hanging out together watching Harry Potter movies, and of eating truly astounding amounts of popcorn every day, I'm OK with that.

Team Sanity.

Love and hugs,


Wednesday, April 01, 2020

SD no longer counting: People, people who need people...

Hi neighbors! Zoomed from an appropriate distance!
One thing this pandemic has done is made me very grateful for the people in my life.

When I spoke with my psychiatrist, he said that "social distancing" was the wrong term, and that we should be calling it "physical distancing," because people still need to be connected to each other.

Yes, my goodness yes.

It is true that I'm an introvert. But all that means is that I recharge by being alone. I need some alone time to be my best self.


As it turns out, I love people. I mean, select people. But there are many of them. So many.

(You already knew this, right? My kids did.)

And I'm a hugger. If we're friends, and you're cool with it, I will hug you hello and goodbye.

My family would say, "I love you" at the end of every phone call. Even if it was like, "Hey, I'm at the store on the way home. Do you need anything? OK. I love you! Bye!"

I have heard people who are of the opinion that saying I love you too often diminishes the meaning. Whereas I feel like you cannot have too much love. Spread that stuff around as much as you can. We all need as much love as we can get.

So I hug friends. And in our school community, there are lots of Latin Americans and Spaniards, which means one cheek kiss or two.

There's lots of physical connection in my everyday world.

Nick does not come from huggers. He is kind and friendly but hugging practically every other person is not how he operates in the world.

With so many friends near and far I am texting, WhatsApping, calling, FaceTiming and Zooming (during which I spent approximately 75% of time time thinking my god, does my face really look like that? And why is my hair doing that? I need to stop touching my face).

With Gerald and Tracy, we've chatted though the window. It's fun but not as satisfying as sitting down having coffee and intense conversation.

They're right here, and I miss them!

Before this, I hadn't thought about the casual interactions that I have every single day.

Most mornings when I'm walking Wanda, Tracy passes me on her way back from boot camp. Our chat is brief, but I love the check ins.

I see Gerald at the end of the school day every day. Sometimes we all walk home together.

We met Tracy, who was also pregnant and lives directly across the street, because our next door neighbors had a party, a really, really loud party with a band, on a weeknight.

I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with India, and Nick went outside to knock on the door. (This was prior to the police arriving.) Tracy was out in front of their house yelling, "SHUT THE FUCK UP!"

Of course we were going to be friends.

My friend Claudia told me that I'm always making new friends. I was like, really? And then she pointed out that I'd just said, "So I have this new friend..."

And in fact, she and I just met a couple years ago, and we were immediately friends.

This summer, my kids and I were planning to go to Spain with her and her daughter, one of India's besties.

I was holding off getting a new passport, which I need, until my hair was no longer pink.

Because 10 years of pink is...long.

But currently it is hard to imagine that this trip could happen in August.

Claudia is also part of my almost-weekly social time. Many Fridays India goes over to their house after school to play, and then I go to pick her up, and Claudia and I sit on the couch and drink wine and eat chorizo and catch up.

It's small, but it's also enormous.

And I now realize I invite people over all the time. All the time.

Come over! I say this all the time. I've invited people I barely know to come stay with us. Come over! Come for coffee! Come have a drink! Come stay!

It's so hard to imagine now, but our first Christmas in this house, when the ground floor was still almost completely under construction, we hosted a tiny Christmas dinner.

How did this happen? I cannot remember.

The kitchen had just been completed, but there were still walls and parts of floors open and we still had to walk across boards to get from the front door to the stairs, or into the kitchen for that matter. Sheets of plastic to keep the dust down were still hanging in doorways.

We had a four month old. Nick bought the last fake tree they had at Lowe's and put it up upstairs.

It's a time I barely remember.

And still, we invited friends for dinner. My dear friend Danny (personal chef extraordinaire). Our friend Kurt, who saved us during snowmaggeddon,  and who managed the guest house across the street, and a man who worked with him, whose name I don't remember, who had formerly lived and worked in our house and who brought his girlfriend's dog.

We brought a table and some chairs and pots and pans downstairs. I couldn't even tell you what we ate, just that it was nice to be together.

After we were done, we cleared everything away, took stuff back upstairs, and didn't use the kitchen again until the ground floor was done the following summer.

Kind of odd, actually, no?

Anyway, this come-overness is how, another year, we wound up with 40 people for Christmas dinner. Every time someone told me they weren't going to be with family, I was all, "Come to our house!"

My mother told me to stop inviting strangers from the bus stop, which truthfully was practically what I was doing. Next time I felt inclined to open my mouth and invite someone, she said, I should just close it.

Our friends all brought food. It was lovely to all be together. It was also very crowded. We took turns eating at the table, or ate standing in the kitchen.

We didn't manage a holiday party this year, or holiday cards, for that matter.

We decided we'd do a big party in January or February, when things are grim and people really need some cheer.

And then January and February went by and here we are.

I get all kinds of anxious before big gatherings. I wonder why I invited so many people. What if we don't have enough food? What if we run out of clean glasses?

Nick talks me down every time. He's always like, "You get like this, and then people get here and they have a nice time and you really enjoy it and then you want to have another party again immediately."

This is true.

I just have so many people I like, and they're so interesting, and I love introducing people I like to other people I like and then it just goes from there...

Which is to say, we'll probably have like a 500 person party at our house when all of this is over.

When I told Nick that after all of this I want to have an all-day party starting with breakfast margaritas, he said breakfast margaritas aren't a thing.

But I think if you have them with a side of bacon and a coffee chaser they totally are.

Come over! Then! Whenever then is!

For now: stay home!

Be safe. Big hugs and lots of love,