My kids’ school just announced that they will be closed starting Monday. They didn’t say when they will reopen. And, at this point, anyone who is saying when they are reopening is lying. They just don’t have a way to know.
No one has a cure for the coronavirus yet. We can try to avoid it, to clean it off ourselves, and trust that doctors can try to fight it if we catch it. But so far we are just playing tag with it, and it is still kind of winning. I have confidence in science, and I am sure that within a few months there will be better ways to cure it.
In the meantime, and pending an announcement from CPS cancelling classes too, I will be locked in a 1500 square feet house with four boys and a husband who must be the only person on the face of the Earth who truly, viscerally hates working from home.
There is much we could analyze out of that, but I don’t have time for it today. I am busy trying to come up with a plan to keep everyone sane in the next few weeks. Starting with him. I am seriously concerned for his blood pressure, which will surely rise exponentially as the days pass. For that, I have already prescribed a daily walk outside for each one of us, even if it just involves walking around the block for ten minutes. I hope I don’t have to end up buying a dog just so we have an excuse to be allowed out of the house…
While I figure out what to do with him, I will focus on the kids. Although my baby was born only seven weeks ago, I have been working from home all along. Welcome to the USA and to the freelancer’s reality, clients don’t wait for you to have a life, so you just keep working.
You can do the math:
a newborn, a five year old, an eight year old, a twelve year old, plus two working parents times indefinite amount of days locked at home equals chaos.
Obviously, and while it is possible, we will get them out of the house for a bit every day.
Luckily, there is a soccer pitch right in front of the house. With goalie gloves and a promise not to go anywhere near the monkey bars, we may be able to have them run after a ball enough time every day that we balance the overeating, overseating and oversugaring that is bound to happen in the next few weeks.
After that, here are some of my ideas:
- E-LEARNING. Schools are promising that it will be a thing, and if there is anything I have faith on on top of science, is our school, OLMCA. It deserves its own post, but over this whole crisis, and to be honest, any crisis in the past, they have been flawless, responsible, straight forward, proactive and reassuring. If I panic, I just need to look at those solid wood gates and that top notch staff, and I immediately feel better and safer. So I am hoping for a few hours of online schooling daily.
- CRAFTS. This may seem like an obvious option, but my kids are not interested in most crafts. At all. They will indulge in some painting if it is messy enough, so I got temperas, and I have a million brushes left from school projects. They will be a thing.
- COOKING. With the virus roaming around, I don’t feel comfortable ordering food. With three hangry boys, a hungry father and an even hangrier mother, that means that we will have to cook at least once a day. We normally have them help, but now it will be full hands on team work. It will keep them busy for an hour, and it may be a good time for them to try new things (disclaimer: they are already pretty decent eaters).
- BAKING. You may think that baking belongs with cooking, but you would be mistaken. Why? Because baking involves Math. Lots of Math. Measuring, counting, multiplying (6 of us again), time, temperatures… Especially if half of the recipes you use are European, which means that we also have to do conversion. So, we will be practicing math with cookies and cakes, which is, by far, the best way to practice Math.
- MAXIMIZING THE PATIO. Nine years ago, when we were looking for a house, my husband convinced a very reluctant me to buy a little townhouse with a little patio and no assessments instead of the sprawling 3500 square feet vintage condo with assessments and no elevator that I very much wanted. I have thought of that movie like condo every day for the last 9 years. But I will think of it no more. Our little patio is actually decent sized for the city at 500 square feet. While it is not big enough for a full on soccer match, it will do for the two middle ones to kick the ball and play goalie (we are De Gea or Courtois at the moment), decorate it with chalk, throw foam rockets, and play beanbag. With some luck, we may even build a snowman. Thanking my husband is in order, even nine years later.
- GARDENING. The patio takes me to another great idea. Kids love dirt, right? And there is nothing better for getting in close touch with dirt than gardening. Luckily, this quarantine of sorts has caught us with Spring fast approaching, which means that it is a great time for seeding. I plan on seeding different plants and vegetables, and track them with the kids. They will have fun, and I will have turned getting dirty into a science experiment.
- FAMILY TIME. Call it Skype, Whatsapp video or Facetime. When they were little, my kids had breakfast “with” my parents every day. The computer sat on our table, and we would talk and see each other for an hour or so. That helped bridge the ocean sized distance and for them to build a bond that lasts until today. But with school during the week and sports on weekends, now they rarely get a chance to videochat. Since both Spain and the US (along with the rest of the world except, seemingly and strangely, Russia) are going through the same pandemic, it is a great moment to “spend” some time with grandma and grandpa.
- BOARD GAME GALORE. My kids love board games. They are terribly competitive, and they are rather bad winners than sore losers, but they still have fun. I hope that we will be able to spend an hour or two a day playing board games, or making puzzles. We may also take advantage of the neverending supply of Legos that come from underneath our furniture, rugs, beds…
- SENSORY TIME. One advantage of the fact that all of my kids have needed Occupational Therapy is that I have learned some tricks from those patient ladies. Play Doh or a bin full of rice and beans where you hide little toys will provide sensory input that will help balance antsy bodies in need of some relaxation. Music helps too, so I am planning on some mini dancing parties. And, no, we don’t do kiddie music. We are more of a Lady Gaga and Pitbull kind of house.
- BOOKS. Good old books. We all are bookworms, and we have a significant stash of books that will come in very handy. With supplies left from a school project that I did last year, I may even have each of them create their own little library so they can “borrow” books from each other.
As you can see, I haven’t mentioned TV or videogames yet. We try to be e a low screen time household. I am not delusional, and I know that both will have to happen if the two of us want to still have jobs at the other end of this thing. But my goal is to keep videogame time below 1 hour, and allow TV up to either tree TV episodes (each kid picks one) or one movie a day.
I know that some of these things sound like a lot of work, but they aren’t really. They aren’t expensive either, you can find most of the things needed at any drugstore or supermarket. While everyone was going crazy looking for toilet paper, I went out to buy chalk, paint, seeds and dirt and some Play-Doh. Those aisles were still well stocked. And, yes, while I was at it I found some toilet paper too.
I will be happy to give updates on my plan and more detailed ideas on Instagram and on a follow up post. I will be even happier to read whatever ideas you have to survive this. Although we may have to be physically isolated from each other, this kind of crisis is better passed in good company, even if it has to be virtual. We will have to reinvent one of my favorite English expressions, “the more, the merrier“, and figure out ways of still being together, even while we have to actually be apart, singing “Happy Birthday” in unison while we wash our hands.
And while doing all that, we will beat the Coronavirus blues.
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