Texas is Open, and Nothing Has Changed (for some of us)

parent interrupts by her daughter while working in the office
Copyright: ferli

Last Friday, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, declared that somethings could go back to normal — restaurants dining rooms are at half capacity, state parks are open with certain social distancing measures in place and curbside pickup for retail can continue. What this means for my family is…

NOTHING HAS CHANGED.

The kids are still not in school and won’t be until fall, and we are still not supposed to be hanging out with friends and neighbors in any real capacity. Our neighborhood parks are still closed and the kids’ soccer programs are still on hold.

What it made me realize is this: While I kinda miss going to Target just to wander around and try on sunglasses and hats, mostly what I miss is my kids going places. I miss it because they miss it; I want them to be happy. And I miss it because I am constantly going back and forth between my stuff and their stuff and I long for a predictable schedule where I can concentrate on writing and work for a big chunk of time.

Halfway through a lengthy job application this morning — complete with writing samples — I paused to help the younger one get on his class Zoom call and then help the older one with some schoolwork. By the time I got back to my computer, the sign-in for the application had timed out, and I had to start over again. This kind of thing happens on a regular basis these days.

I am not a natural at multitasking and the constant switching back and forth between my work and my kids’. It makes me irritable to have to change gears repeatedly. I like being able to focus on one thing, at length, until it’s finished or passed onto someone else for the next step.

I know we’re doing this for the greater good, though I am a little pissy about Bolivar Point in Galveston, which according to recent photo evidence, is packed to the gills when I can’t even send my kids to their friends’ houses. It doesn’t make sense.

I don’t know the answer.

Social distancing to flatten the curve seems right, and our economy does need to be taken into consideration. I’m not sure if opening Texas right now is the responsible move or not, but we’ll see what happens. I am glad the decision doesn’t rest on my shoulders; there’s no clear, correct answer. I can only hope our leaders make decisions based on what is best for everyone and not for their personal pocketbooks or their own political gain. My own frustrations with staying home all the damned time are personal and independent of what is for the greater good.

All greater good aside, what’s frustrating you (personally, not politically) the most about the pandemic and social distancing? What’s been good about it? Let me know in the comments.

Homeschool Advice from a Former Teacher who Hates Lesson Plans

homeschool penny hike
Coronavirus Homeschool Penny Hike

UPDATE: I wrote this two weeks ago at the beginning of our school-from-home experience. Since then, the school district has upped their game, mostly subverting my role to tech support for my children. This means we spend a lot of time arguing about usernames and passwords.

Also, I wrote this on one of the days I felt like I had my shit together. Right now, I feel like my shit is very far apart, strewn across the galaxy and into the dark side of the multiverse. (We rewatched Doctor Strange last night, as Marvel movies are the only ones we can all agree on.)

So you can use the ideas I wrote about here, or you can totally hide in your home office and allow your family to assume you’re working when you’re really having virtual brunch with friends and venting.


Educational Activity

This morning, for the edification of my lovely young children, we went on a penny hike. This is a simple concept from my own childhood in which you flip a coin every time you get to an intersection: heads, go right, tails go left.

It was a multidisciplinary hike in which we observed bees and ants in their natural habitats (science), discussed the virtues of exercise (physical education), and practiced converting measurements from the metric system to the imperial system* (math). We also discussed probability with each coin flip and practiced our geographical skills with the recognition of landmarks.

Another Way to Describe What We Did

The 9-year-old said, “Let’s go on a penny hike.” We happened across some ants, which we watched until someone stepped in their pile. The kids freaked out when I stopped to take a closeup picture of the bees, and I explained for the billionth time that the bees are not plotting a stinging onslaught upon anyone who gets within 25 feet of them.

When the kids started whining about being tired because leaving all decisions up to chance kept us walking in circles, we abandoned coin flipping and headed home. We discussed how the 9-year-old’s inconsistent flipping habits (sometimes playing it where it lay, sometimes slapping it onto his arm, depending on his preferred coin side) were biasing our results.

As for geographical landmarks, one of them pointed to a house along the way and said, “I think that’s Aiden’s house.” The 12-year-old checked his Pokemon Go app to see how far we walked, and as an afterthought, I asked him to convert the kilometers to miles.

Take it Easy

It doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds. You don’t even have to plan that much; just look for opportunities in everything you do to ask your kids some questions. You probably already do it without realizing it.

In the classroom, things are uber structured because there is a gaggle of kids and one adult. If you want to plan things down to the minute at home, cool. But if maintaining a rigid school schedule while also trying to get your own work done stresses you out, know you don’t have to.

One night at dinner, we brainstormed activities we could do during this time of social distancing. They ran the gamut: read a book, rake leaves, hike, practice soccer in the backyard, watch something new on TV. Each day, we can pick several things from the list, and all the math, science, language arts, and not-so-social studies will happen naturally.  This leaves plenty of time for me to work and for the kids to still have much more free time than they’re used to.

And read. Don’t forget to tell them to read.

*I had to look up what we call our antiquated, arbitrary system of measuring things that I still, stupidly, can’t let go of.

‘Looks Like I Picked the Wrong Week to Quit my Job.

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This probably isn’t the week to try to quit anything, except going out.

I quit my job with Neighbors of Four Points magazine several weeks ago. I was just ramping up the search for a new position when the coronavirus smashed everyone’s plans on the whole planet to bits and caused the cancellation of pretty much everything but healthcare.

On the one hand, I don’t have to deal with trying to work from home while the kids are not in school for what is currently going to be three weeks. My freelance client has even put projects on hold. As an introvert, nothing pleases me more than being on my own, whimsical schedule. And we are all healthy and not immune-compromised at our house. There’s a lot to appreciate, not the least of which is Texas Governor Abbott giving the okay for restaurants to deliver alcohol during this time of crisis.

On the other hand, as a person who needs a job, the current situation doesn’t bode well. Hiring copywriters isn’t a priority right now. A lot of people assume that because my husband has a fulltime job, I don’t need to work; I just do it for personal edification or shits and giggles and to keep from being bored. These people don’t know me very well; I am perfectly capable of entertaining myself with a stack of books, puzzles and some wine without anyone paying me. We need my income. And while we can keep ourselves in food, clothing and shelter for now, my being unemployed for who-knows-how-long is stressful.

It’s a weird time. My kids are happy the state testing they dread every year has been canceled, and I am enjoying the change in routine, but I know it’s going to be challenging after three weeks. Despite the fact that I taught school for ten years prior to having my own children (or perhaps because of it) I know I’m not cut out for homeschooling. And I know I need to get a job. And I know there are immune-compromised people suffering from coronavirus or from anxiety about contracting it and a bunch of other people irrationally hoarding things and making it harder on everyone. My 68-year-old mom is still going to work in the lab at the hospital every day, and my sister is still stalking the streets of New York City providing necessary health care to those who live there. There is a lot going on and virtually nothing going on all at the same time.

This is going to be the thing our kids remember. Like we remember where we were when the Challenger exploded or when the World Trade Center was hit. Like our parents recall their exact location when John F. Kennedy was shot. But this one is global; it’s an experience youth around the world share. Twenty years from now, my kids might run into someone from Italy, Australia or China, and they’ll ask each other, “What happened where you were during the coronavirus pandemic?” Since this is not an acute event but a lengthy pandemic virus, they will have a lot to talk about. And what will they remember about how the adults in their lives handled this challenge?