pandemic diaries: week 14

Here's what we did last week, week 2 of #momcamp!

On Monday, in part for National Nature Photography Day, and after seeing it on the summer bucket list 510 Families updates every year, I took the kids to Point Molate beach near the Richmond Bridge to search for sea glass, a first for me.

It was so fun, like an Easter egg hunt, and we only saw two other families the entire time we were there.

On Monday night I started reading Jenny Odell's 'How To Do Nothing.' Early on she mentions Oakland's two most famous trees: the Jack London Oak in front of City Hall...

...and Old Survivor just up the hill from where we live. 

So on Tuesday we checked out both. Later that afternoon, we watched this short documentary about Old Survivor.

On Wednesday, seeking more redwood goodness, we went for a picnic lunch and hike in Redwood Regional Park, which recently reopened some of the lots accessible from the Redwood Road entrance.

Wednesday was also Global Garbage Man Day, which probably needs an updated title to be more inclusive. Surely there are female-identifying waste management workers, no? Anyway, we were going to watch Trashed but opted for A Plastic Ocean instead. Minimalism is another related title I'd recommend if you're generally interested in accumulating less stuff (and garbage).

On National Apple Strudel Day I made apple strudel for the first time (with what was essentially pie dough, not puff pastry). It was OUT OF THIS WORLD, get it?? And yes, mostly vegan.

On National Go Fishing Day, I was looking for some sort of documentary about fishing that did not involve men taking pictures of themselves holding up really big fish. I wanted to watch Leviathan, which is available via Prime Video but only along with a Fandor subscription. So instead we started Atlantic, but the kids got bored about halfway through. 'Atlantic' is narrated by Brendan Gleeson, who will play Donald Trump in this upcoming CBS show called 'The Comey Rule'. Weird, right?

For Juneteenth, now officially a company holiday at my day gig (so I had the day off), we first looked at the Emancipation Proclamation documents on the National Archives website, then listened to the reading of the proclamation on NPR that aired earlier that morning. After that we watched the 2019 retrospective episode of Juneteenth Jamboree, produced by Austin PBS. Later that afternoon, before and after dinner, we tuned in to the Oakland Museum's virtual Friday Nights Juneteenth program. I especially loved learning the dance routine set to Alphabet Rockers' 'Someday' as choreographed by Samara Atkins from Destiny Arts

It was a day by and large reserved for listening, learning, and reflection. But a hopeful toast doesn't hurt, right? I didn't have all the ingredients for Edouardo Jordan's Juneteenth Red Punch but I did have strawberries, ginger, and vodka, so I made the syrup and used it in a special martini for National Martini Day.

Saturday was the last day my kids will ever be ages 7 and 11 at the same time. So they were allowed their annual quota of Slurpee (more about my son's birthday in a second). Also on Saturday, the first day of summer, we tuned into the livestream Stonehenge solstice sunset event. Overcast as it was, it was somewhat anticlimactic, but still pretty cool to use the opportunity to teach the kids about Stonehenge, the summer solstice, etc. The British Heritage's related interactive webpage Skyscape is pretty cool for kids to explore as well.

Of course, having a son born on June 21st, he already knows a bit about all that. Saturday night we hosted a pandemic-friendly backyard viewing of E.T. for his 12th birthday. He invited three friends. One set of parents stayed for a socially distanced drink, then left. So between us and five kids total, there was plenty of room out back to stay 6 feet apart...or at least keep masks on. Ideally both but that didn't always happen. 

When it was dark enough I had the kids sanitize their hands and then distributed pre-sorted goody bags of popcorn and candy and got the movie started. The kids loved it. Even my 7 year old daughter was so thrilled to be in the company of other kids again, even if they were all older boys who were friends of her brother. 

For the next two and a half weeks they'll be at the one summer camp that didn't cancel or pivot to virtual. It's 100% outdoors, they're in a small group of 10 kids plus one counselor, and they'll stay with that group for the full 3-week session. They do a quick health check and temperature scan at drop-off, they have to wear their masks all day except while eating and the few times they get to play in a huge field, and they have lots of opportunities to sanitize and wash hands. Even after just a day, I can't accurately articulate how amazing it was, after 14 weeks of distance learning and mom camp, to have 5-6 uninterrupted hours to work. And for them, to be able to get a break from us, from our house, and interact, even from a distance, with other children - amazing. For me right now, this situation, extending as it is into months, not weeks, with no real end in sight, is all about harm reduction and risk assessment. I think folks underestimate how adaptable kids are, able to comprehend the importance of modifying their behavior. Should we ever cram 30+ kids into a classroom? Probably not, to be quite honest. Like so many issues in this country, COVID has exposed much of what's less than ideal about public education in the first place. We'd do well to take advantage of this opportunity to rethink how we do things, like public education and healthcare, but we should also give kids a little more credit. They know how to keep a mask on and if you're having honest conversations with them, they know why. But I guess I'm of the camp that feels we should at least acknowledge and weigh the downsides to keeping them out of schools indefinitely with the risk of contracting coronavirus. For now, I'm going to enjoy the next two and a half weeks and hope I get caught up on some of my longer-term project based work that's suffered over the last three months so that I can switch gears back to four weeks of mom camp that follow.

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