On my favorite daily news podcast, What a Day, when they finish talking about Covid 19, the news headlines and the political campaigns, the hosts play ten seconds of chill flute music and then talk about their regular lives right now. They call the segment “life under lockdown.” But they don’t take it very far. They usually share one album they listened to or the kind of lunch they made and then boom, it’s over. Frankly, I’m always looking for a bit more. Because at the moment I’m definitely in the market for ideas, how about you?
Today, I want to share what it’s like around here. The good, the bad, the tasty, the comforting, the incredibly difficult surprises. The nice surprises.
We’re all home. So grab a smoothie and sit awhile. I hope you’ll find something in this picture of life here that gives you an idea for life there.
(If you prefer to listen to this post as a podcast, you can listen on the player below or on your podcast platform of choice).
Let’s start with the good. I’m pretty introverted, and to be honest, staying home all the time hasn’t been as hard for me as I expected. With my kids’ activities Pinterest page and my giant art shelf, I’m pretty preschool-teacher leaning anyway.
I like wearing the same cozy jeans and stripy sweatshirt every day.
I like planning special meals and actually having my whole family there to eat them. I like not feeling guilty about watching movies with the kids more often. I like teaching my son to play our tiny red electronic toy piano. He’s got “Mary had a Little Lamb” down pat, and we’re preparing for a “Sound of Music” themed singing + piano concert for grandma over FaceTime. Frozen 2 and Moana songs will also make an appearance, alongside the upbeat Spanish version of “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” we’ve been frenziedly practicing.
Spring is springing here, and I pick flowers on all my walks to bring in and splash around the house. The daffodils are as sunshiny as ever, our lilacs are covered in buds outside (a huge improvement from the two flowers we got last year), and the peonies we planted last fall are sending their curly little red shoots toward the sky. That all makes me really happy.
Then there’s the bad. I’m not yet the master of Google Hangouts that I hoped. With my five gmail accounts, millions of open tabs, and use of multiple browsers (Chrome, Safari) for different things relating to my work as an ed writer, I keep ending up signed into the wrong account or in the wrong browser at the the wrong time. Whoops. I’m trying to get it all figured out, and reminding myself that mess-ups are part of the process.
We’ve been thinking about moving abroad to work for a while, and are deep into interviews (that are now online). But it’s very confusing to think about giving up a safe position and our home in such a time of upheaval. What if we commit to a job abroad and then we can’t even cross the border to begin it? And yet, should we postpone this dream for a whole year or more as a result of this situation? I don’t know.
The worst and hardest thing for me came Friday night when my jazzed up kiddos were racing around the house and crashed into each other in the hall. My baby bumped her head on the corner of the hallway wall and we had to rush her to the emergency room. I couldn’t help but wonder if it ever would have happened if we weren’t all staying home all the time. It didn’t exactly make me feel any safer carrying her in as we passed a lit tent outside hosted by doctors that looked like they were wearing moon landing clothes. But what could we do? She needed eight stitches, and we’ll have to go back to get them out. Hand sanitizer and wipes are all we can defend ourselves with, and I realize we’re lucky to have that. Everyone was so kind, but it was still a terribly upsetting experience. Five days later I’m starting to breath normally again.
Lucky she’s such a tough little cookie. She received an Elsa dress, a pink bunny, a pack of marshmallow peeps and a special balloon as feeling better presents and has pronounced that it was all “definitely worth it.”
I continue to love all the ways I see people supporting each other online. I am hearing a lot about Kahoot, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Screencastify and Flipgrid as solid platforms for helping with distance learning. Many teachers are promoting reading, documenting the pandemic and any worthwhile creative pursuits for students who can’t access consistent online learning options, and I think these are all wonderful options. (You can find more of my teaching ideas for this time here and here, as well as lots of free curriculum you might like to use here).
In case you might be looking for fun entertainment ideas for your young kids currently at home with you, recipe ideas for your family, and distractions for yourself, I wanted to share what’s been working best for me. Here goes.
Cooking (because I might be a food blogger in my next life)
As usual, I’m totally obsessed with Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day (I wish they would sponsor me, wouldn’t that be dreamy?). You can actually watch how it works right now, because super awesome Zoe from Zoe Bakes did an IGTV video about how to make the dough since she’s at home like the rest of us and wanted to help entertain and inspire us all! You just stir together a batch of regular dough, olive oil dough, or brioche dough (those are my favorites) and then you can use them to make things all week. I spent ten minutes on a brioche dough last Sunday, then used it to make cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls, and apple raisin turban challah this week.
I made this chicken satay stir fry last night (an old stand-by from when I first learned to cook). It’s my husband’s favorite and even my four-year-old loved it. My eight-year-old came suddenly down with a tummy ache (diagnosed by me as fear of different food) briefly but managed to recover in time for chocolate layer cake from Joanna Chang’s new cookbook, Pastry Love. You guys, my color-coded cookbook shelf (ummm, shelves, they’re encroaching on the play doh toys) are getting out of hand, so I was lucky to get this new one at the library. Still, I think I might buy it.
Homeschool for little Ones
I was pretty sure my children (4 and 8) would destroy each other (you know, with love) if we tried to free play with occasional bursts of reading, writing and math for the next month. So I channeled my early Coronavirus anxiety into turning our playroom into a Montessori space, buying early childhood TPT sets, and putting myself on the mailing list of every early childhood blogger with amazing free printables I could find (here’s looking at you, Picklebums).
This general schedule is carrying us through the days pretty well:
We start by looking at the calendar and talking about the weather and the date. We do a quick mindfulness exercise like finger breathing or a body scan (or one day, mindful snacks).
Next, we practice Spanish, using songs like these, color flashcards, and funny puppets. Lucky for me, I already knew Spanish.
Then we talk about a different country of the world. I really like telling the kids stories of places their dad and I have been and sharing a fun drone video, whether of Morocco, Istanbul, Bratislava, etc. When we talked about China we watched highlights from the opening ceremonies in Beijing – so fun!
After art we usually end up having a snack while I take a minute to clean up and reset for music.
Both kids like music, so we either listen to songs (we love Laurie Berkner, Moana, Frozen 2, etc.) and play instruments or sing along. We watched The Sound of Music last week in installments which was really fun, and now we’re learning two of the songs for a concert for Grandma. I enabled the free three month Apple Music trial on my phone so we can access pretty much any song in the world free right now without dealing with Youtube ads.
For math, my oldest does some multiplication activities or builds a K’nex challenge, though I think we’ll soon start doing some of the activities on the math website, Zearn. Someone in our community is hosting a Lego Masters challenge where you can email in pictures of your creations, which I think is really cool. I hope to get the kids into it eventually. Yesterday the challenge was to build a school, but only I did it while the kids built their usual amazing space blaster ships.
By this time, we’re ready for either recess or gym, which are kind of mixed up in my head. We try to get outside and play unless it’s pouring. If we have to have indoor recess, we go into the guest room where I’ve stashed a few special toys that are just for that purpose right now.
For writing and reading, my youngest does Montessori-type works from our shelves while my oldest has been working on his own Mo Willems’ “Don’t let the Pigeon…” book, reads, and listens to books on Epic. My daughter actually likes to be read to by the Epic narrators too. We’re doing the free thirty day trial of Epic, and I’d definitely recommend trying it out. There are tons of audiobooks and other great reading options on the platform.
For science we’ve done some nature walks and exploring outside, tried the crazy Skittles rainbow science experiment (so pretty!), and are going to watch some mini documentaries on Curiosity Stream. I paid $2.99 for a month of unlimited access to this documentary streaming platform, and I’m interested to dig more into it. We’re all set to watch our first short film there this afternoon – all about the bugs that live in a photographer’s garden. The footage is pretty stunning.
I’ve enjoyed listening to The Homeschool Sisters podcast on my walks sometimes, to get ideas for more things to do with the kids. Though I usually fast forward the first fifteen or twenty minutes where they just kind of chat. That’s a lot of chat for me, personally.
Exercise wise, I try to get out for a walk every day and just see the flowers and listen to What a Day or an audiobook. As I often do at times of stress, I am listening to Jim Dale read Harry Potter. How can he be such an amazing narrator? All those voices to keep track of! And he does it PERFECTLY. I always like to put Jim on if I’m feeling anxious at bedtime, because it just plain turns off my inner monologue and I go straight to sleep. I just click the sleep timer for eight or fifteen minutes, but I think I usually fall asleep in one.
I’m hearing from lots of people about the great books they’re reading. I’ve got an easily digestible lineup in my room at the moment, including Darius the Great is not OK, See you Sunday (yes, it’s a cookbook, but written by the longtime food editor of the New York Times and so fun to read), Harry Potter, and Magnolia magazine. No crazy dystopia for me at the moment, thank you.
My husband showed me this funny little video series made by a family stuck at home the other day, and we laughed. I’m in the camp that we need to take all this very seriously and make good choices to help our world get through this, but that we also need to laugh at the insanity sometimes and it’s OK to go down a meme rabbit hole or binge a funny homemade youtube series just to feel that community in crisis.
As I go to bed tonight, I hope we can all keep supporting each other in this stay-at-home adventure. I hope our president chooses to invoke the supply power he needs to work with American businesses to build ventilators, masks, and disinfectants for our brave health care workers. I hope we can all bring our own unique gifts and creativity into this strange time to help others and help ourselves.
If you’re feeling strong, share your strength with someone. If you’re feeling scared and alone, lean on me, and so many others who want to help.
We can do this.