pandemic diaries: weeks 48-49 (and a half!)

With less than three weeks until the one-year anniversary of school closures here in Oakland, alongside dramatically improving COVID numbers nationwide, there's been an uptick in the heated debate around schools reopening. I won't repeat any of it here, but if you're interested in my take on it, you should follow me on Twitter, where I'm trying my best to keep it positive and respectful. Locally, we were recently asked to fill out a form confirming whether or not we'd send our kids back to school given the chance to return to at least a hybrid model of in-person/remote learning and we indicated that yes, indeed, half or full days will work for us, thank you very much. My kids have been consistently wearing masks, maintaining distance from others, and washing their hands well throughout this pandemic (the latter since way before - first thing we do when we return home from literally anywhere). They've got this. That said, I'm not holding my breath for a return to campus anytime soon, especially for the middle schooler.

In other (related) news, on the heels of requesting a mental health services referral for my increasingly glum 8 year old, we celebrated her birthday virtually with friends (llama paint-by-number kits provided by my high school friend Amanda's company Wehgo), which seemed to open the door to conversations around in-person playdates everyone felt comfortable with. We've since established a couple of standing, weekly back yard playdates with a couple of her friends and the difference it's making in her overall mood is simply stunning. 

Evidence of a successful (masked) back yard playdate.

Both kids are also doing a "shelter scouts" program one afternoon a week at the East Bay SPCA. Here's a cute pup they met last week.

The 12 year old, meanwhile, has been a little easier to support in this way, with a couple of friends open to outdoor hikes and hangs for a few months now (not to mention the upside of having a smart phone and playing video games in that he likely feels a bit more connected than his little sister does to her friends). I was reminded of how parenthood warps time when I saw that Homeroom was getting ready to celebrate its 10th (!!) anniversary. Seems like just a couple of years ago I took the then 2 1/2 year old to try it out during opening week.

On a personal note, I too have been struggling with some bouts of mild depression (mild clinically, I'm sure, but worse than I'm personally used to). Though we're fortunate in so many ways, the chronic nature of things is getting really, really hard to deal with. I keep thinking of that section in I Don't Know How She Does It by Allison Pearson, and I'm paraphrasing since I read the book on a Nook I no longer have so I can't look up the exact quote, but something about how she didn't feel suicidal exactly, but she had days when she just wanted everything to stop for awhile. I have a lot of days like that lately, mornings when it's really, really hard to get out of bed. To counter this groundhog day quality a bit, in addition to trying my best to eat well and exercise every day (just started my second six-week "journey" using the Freeletics app), I've returned to random national "holidays" for some daily inspiration. It's surreal to think back to some of our early coping strategies during the first couple of months of this pandemic, when national days often served as homeschool inspiration.

Happy National Banana Bread Day!

We also did a major, multiple-weeks long purge of lots of random stuff in our cozy home (some stuff the 12 year old has had in his room since we moved in 10 1/2 years ago!). Getting rid of things lightens the load a bit, both literally and figuratively, it seems.

Enjoying the areas outside the house is also helping me get through what is hopefully the home stretch of this pandemic. Our hummingbird feeder out front continues to be a huge hit (hummingbirds around here don't really migrate away for the winter) and this past weekend we found the perfect spot in the back yard for the wren house that Grandpa Randy built and sent us for Christmas. I can't wait to see who moves in!

Otherwise, with no remote school last Friday, a rather gloomy day in the middle of a long stretch of unseasonably warm weather, I played hooky to take the kids on an epic outing in El Sobrante, about a half-hour north of Oakland. A foggy, muddy hike was followed by take-out pizza enjoyed at a new-to-us playground.

Converting to full-time has been challenging some weeks so far this year, but paid time off is quite the perk.


pandemic diaries: weeks 43-47

Honestly, I don't even know if I'm doing the math right anymore, this thing is dragging on for so long. But I do know I'm way behind on updating these here pandemic diaries, and I've been at it this long, may as well continue, so here goes. It's been a busy and incredibly stressful five weeks, on both a personal and public level. By public I mean the capitol insurrection, of course, and the ensuing (second) impeachment, all on the heels of the positive political news from Georgia. It's weird to be reflecting back on this during the week the second impeachment trial began.

On a personal level, my mother-in-law has been in the hospital since mid-January. She celebrated her 74th birthday there. I'm not going to pretend like our relationship has always been easy, but the first week she was in the ICU was one of the most agonizing of my life. She's doing much better now, thankfully, recovering from multiple health "events" at a care facility, but the transition and longer-term plan has and will pretty thoroughly upend our lives, at least temporarily. It wasn't COVID, but having to deal with all this on top of the ten months of chronic stress caused by a global pandemic and all that's come with it has taken my anxiety levels and mild depression to a new level. Having a loved one in the hospital during a pandemic, whether COVID-related or not, really sucks. We're officially part of the sandwich generation now, which is a little like winning a really shitty lottery if you know me/us personally and know what our parent configuration is like. But that's how life goes, I guess.

And what to say of the ongoing debate around reopening school campuses for in-person learning? In a nutshell, I think this is a pretty good piece of radio to listen to if you haven't already (Bay Area specific but touches on a lot of the pieces of the debate going on around the country right now).

On a lighter note, and fittingly, the now 8 year old and I have been reading Pollyanna together. I've been trying my hardest to play the glad game every day, really I have.

Speaking of birthdays, with the youngest turning 8, every member of the family has now celebrated a pandemic birthday. She requested all things llama. Last weekend we visited a couple of llamas and a whole lot of alpacas at Menagerie Hill Ranch in Vacaville. I highly recommend hugging a baby alpaca if ever given the chance. This weekend we'll host a virtual paint party with a few of her friends. More about that in the next update.

We're getting kinda bored with our usual jaunts. Fortunately, there's always new stuff to discover around here, like Brooklyn Basin, currently still in development nearish Oakland's Jack London Square. You can explore the old pier and even grab some groceries at Rocky's (we didn't buy anything this time but I love the idea of those $5 produce grab bags and, if you're not vegan, the kitchen was producing some tasty-looking sandwiches and such).

We also explored, for the first time as a family, Muir Woods. What a truly magical place.

Thankfully, outdoor attractions are starting to reopen again, too. 

We were able to reschedule our canceled December 21st Glowfari tickets for this past Friday. It was "epic" and the music was "a vibe," according to the rising teen.

What are we watching? Well, we finished up all three seasons of Cobra Kai and I gotta say, that show kinda peaked for me about 3/4 of the way through Season 1. More recently, we started making our way through Schitt's Creek and it's absolutely delightful. Watching a family share a couple of hotel rooms also makes for a fairly cathartic viewing experience during a pandemic and related lockdown/stay-at-home order. I also really enjoyed the clips I've seen of Dan Levy hosting SNL last weekend, especially this one, since Redfin is my internet drug of choice these days (alas, any kind of move is now on hold due to the sandwich generation situation noted above).

Finally, in honor of National Pizza Day, here's some wholesome, vegan pepperoni pizza content for you. First, video of Neal applying a "sheet" of vegan "mozzarella" to the dough/sauce base. Pretty cool, right?? You can see the final product above, with our house-made vegan pepperoni. Neal's recipe:

In other mostly vegan news, dry Veganuary was a bit of a bust on both fronts, but I did give Just Eggs a try (tasty, but expensive)...

...and I've been pretty consistently avoiding most, some days all dairy, including cheese (except the tiniest sprinkling of Mexican cheese blend in our eggs). I'm also trying to be more consistent about not drinking during the week. It's hard, I ain't gonna lie. Daily life holds so little joy right now, but I continue to try to be as vegan as possible, taking it one day at a time. On a somewhat related note, I signed up for Freeletics to move past the pandemic plateau I hit last spring (still running 2 mornings a week but feeling like my cross/strength training routine could use a little revamping). The first 2-3 weeks were great, but I've felt sluggish again the last week or two. I honestly think I'm just so tired. All the time.