Brain-Picking Becky

BFF’s musings and reflections on this crazy life.

Covid City 11: An Ode to Anger

img_4046Written last night, 3/26/2020, at 9 pm

I am mad today. Really fucking mad. At everything, all of it.

I’m mad that my kid lost his school and his friends and a teacher whom he adored. I’m mad that his fifth birthday party is ruined. I’m mad that his sense of safety has been shattered, that he’s been forced to grow up so much in the past two weeks. I’m mad he won’t ever get this time back.

I’m mad that none of us are sleeping, that no matter what we try, the baby wakes up screaming in the middle of the night and then again at 5 am, bright-eyed and ready to climb bookshelves. I’m mad that his formula, diapers, and wipes are so expensive. I’m mad that for him, life in Covid City is all there is, that he won’t remember a time before this.

I’m mad that my dad, my siblings, my nephews, the whole rest of my family, is far away in Kentucky. I’m mad that my granny is alone in a nursing home, just waiting, watching, wondering.

I’m mad that I still have to work and my husband doesn’t. I’m mad at how my body aches and my brain hurts. I’m mad that we can’t go out to a restaurant or a playground or the Botanic Gardens for our annual romp in the cherry blossoms.

I’m mad that our apartment has only four rooms but that celebrities have mansions with pools and theaters. I’m mad that I’m jealous of them. I’m mad that anyone is living in quarantine with an abuser. I’m mad that so many others are facing this pandemic on the streets, in homeless shelters, locked in detention centers apart from their families, while billionaire landlords are provided mortgage relief. I’m mad that our political leaders are incapable and unethical, and I’m really mad that despite how the coronavirus has exposed this country for the sham it is, so many people are still defending it.

Fucking Wednesdays. Or whatever today is, I don’t even know anymore. Life as a parent on lockdown means there is no weekend. That pisses me off, too.

But you know what’s pissing me off the most right now? The fact that Dave and I are supposed to be packing for our 10-year anniversary trip to Miami. Without kids. To rub salt in the wound: I’m still receiving automated trip-reminder emails from Spirit Airlines. Each ding in my inbox brings me back to how, just one month ago, life as a full-time working mother of two had worn me down so much that the only thing getting me through was the promise of a vacation where my husband and I could rest, recuperate, and relish in each other. Instead of Miami, we get Covid City.

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I don’t have a cheery “but then I did this and was happy” message to wrap up with. I meditated, I ran, I wrote. These things helped, but even now at the end of the day, I’m still edgy. I guess I have to learn how to just be okay with that. I can’t stomp around yelling at my family, but I also can’t pretend I’m not angry. Perhaps part of staying sane in Covid City is letting myself feel whatever comes up. Some days will be positive, others will be angry. I have to just let that be. 

***

Update: I am posting this on Friday morning, and after having slept for six hours straight in a row, I am feeling better. I hope all of you got some sleep, too. My morning meditation self-care goal for today is to walk. Whether it be a simple circle around the apartment, a loop around the block with the dog, or a trip to the beach if I get so lucky, today I want to walk as much as I can.

Covid City 9: Resources for Staying Centered

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Posting quickly here today to share some resources my family has been loving as well as an excellent list of self-care and wellness sites my friend, Maria Logothetis, created. Everyone can benefit from these, not just parents!

Also, today’s morning meditation self-care goal is to take deep breaths. I am exhausted. M was up and screaming from 3 to 5 and then we all got up at 6:30 am for yet another day of making this work. It’s a good thing he’s adorable. Still, being cute doesn’t make up for being underslept. I need to come back to my breath as much as I can today, to center myself, calm myself, and remind myself that this ability to breathe with ease is a true gift, especially here in the middle of Covid City.

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Resources We’re Loving as a Family


Yoga 

  • www.downdogapp.com – Offers 5 apps for different workout methods: Yoga, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7-minute workouts.  They are offering free subscriptions until July 1 for any students, teachers or staff/administrators in K-12 & College.  All you need is a school email address. They are also offering their services free to the public until April 1st.
  • https://www.myyogaworks.com/  – Offering a 14-day free trial with a variety of classes, from beginner to prenatal to advanced. No app; website only.


Meditation/Mindfulness 

  • https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/programs-retreats/community-programs/ – Hosts mindfulness retreats and workshops of all kinds throughout the year. Currently offering Free Live Meditation sessions via Zoom on certain days.  Check out their link for details.
  • https://kripalu.org/resources  – Kripalu is a yoga and wellness center in Massachusetts.  They run retreats and workshops on a regular basis and have a list of articles and videos to help deal with stress, anxiety and the like, ranging from aromatherapy to cooking to yoga and meditation.
  • https://centerformsc.org/practice-msc/guided-meditations-and-exercises/ – The Center for Mindful Self Compassion has some online resources and guided meditations for you to explore. Self compassion is many times the first step to working with difficult emotions, especially fear and anxiety.
  • https://tricycle.org/  – This is a Buddhist online publication that has great meditation resources. They post free guided meditations from renowned meditation teachers, both Buddhist and non-sectarian, and have lots of articles for reading more on meditation and Buddhism. They also have a Daily Dharma email you can sign up for, with introspective quotes emailed to you daily.


Podcasts/Audio Talks for Mindfulness & Meditation

 
Free Meditation Apps
  • Headspace – Focused on guided meditations and tips to help you meditate. Ranges from beginner programs to advanced.  Great place to start.
  • Insight Timer – Offers great free individual guided meditations plus meditation programs – a series of meditations – you can pay for. Also tracks the time you meditate so that you can look for trends, etc.
  • Calm – User-friendly app with guided mediations.


Food for Thought

Covid City 8: Be Gentle, Please

March 23, 2020 7:30 am

My calendar tells me it’s Monday. This matters when it comes to my job, but as a parent here in Covid City where going out is not an option, there is no such thing as a weekend.

Case in point: M woke up at 6 am Saturday morning. L stumbled out of bed a couple of hours later and asked when we’d be starting circle time. After having spent the past week experimenting with various homeschool arrangements, Dave and I needed a break. “Today is a Saturday, sweetie,” I said.

“Oh right, it’s a home day,” L replied.

“Well, I guess every day is these days. But it’s up to you. Do you want homeschool today?”

L thought for a moment and decided no. But then, only minutes later, he launched into project time and from there proceeded to lead us through the full homeschool schedule: outside exercises, center time, lunch, quiet time, meditation, dance party, more project time. It actually all went very well; Dave and I were even able to get the laundry and cooking done. So what was the magic secret? Why had this day gone so much better than the others? And how could we make it happen again?

Later that night, Dave and I analyzed all the different options we had tried thus far and came to some excellent conclusions. Even though L had melted down when we’d let him take the lead earlier in the week, he seemed to love it on Saturday. Perhaps now that he had processed things a bit more, letting him lead would be the best move. We went through all the details and felt confident in our plans to replicate Saturday’s success going forward.

Sunday started out quite lovely. L led us through some project time while Dave selected a fun assortment of records. But then, out of nowhere (though it’s never truly out of nowhere), L freaked out and screamed so loudly he woke the baby up from nap. Dave reprimanded L, but I preferred a gentler approach and so interrupted him mid-sentence. This is definitely not the “united front” philosophy we have agreed upon. Dave was, of course, pissed off and left the room, which pissed me off. It took a while to calm L down, then Dave and I had to calm each other down. Meanwhile, the baby was still screaming from his crib.

And that’s when it hit me: we can plan, analyze, and schedule all night long, but the truth is, four people on lockdown in a small apartment are going to get mad at each other. We’re going to yell at each other. We’re going to laugh with each other, too. And in the end, we’re going to get through it with each other.

Homeschool with Dave = setting up a mini-recording studio in the living room.

Saturday worked because it worked. Who knows exactly why. What I do know is that I cannot make everyone happy and I cannot make every day go well even under normal conditions, much less in Covid City. Some days will be good. Others will not. That’s life, with or without the coronavirus.

Of course I’m going to try to create conditions that will foster happiness, creativity, and positivity during our days here at home together. Our child craves structure; when left to his own devices, he enforces it himself. But no matter what happens, I have to stop wasting so much of my brain space on trying to make every day as good as it can possibly be. Parenting in Covid City is weird and emotional and messy. Getting through the day is good enough.

P.S. My morning meditation self-care goal today is to drink more water. I am used to have bottle after bottle while I work in the office, but here at home, I am all discombobulated. Plus, the three of us keep leaving our glasses all over the apartment and then when the baby wakes up, we frantically stash them in weird, high-up places out of his reach, which are also out of our sight and thus out of mind. So today, I’m bringing back up the water bottle.

 

Covid City 7: What About Me?

March 20, 2020, 10:00 pm

You know what? We’re actually kind of figuring it out over here. Things are still a mess, but we’re getting better at it. Or at least more used to it. Obviously I don’t like parenting in Covid City. I’m exhausted. I didn’t choose this. I would never choose this. But there’s no reason to keep fighting it; thinking about how things used to be or worrying about what will come doesn’t help. I’m overwhelmed, yes, but sometimes that’s just how it is. Sometimes we have to swim underwater for a while even if we don’t want to.

You know what else? It’s Saturday. We made it through our first week. We did it. We’re doing it. Good job, us! Good job, everyone!

Big realization: Dave and I left ourselves out of the homeschool schedule. In no way did we consider our own needs at all; we didn’t even include breaks for each other. Over the course of a weekend, I went from having a typical full-time office job, with lunch breaks and coffee breaks and talk-to-other-people-face-to-face breaks, to working 15-hour days with no breaks at all.

I have been so focused on everyone else in my family that I completely lost track of me. So, in addition to adding in at least one solid break and one shorter break every day, I’m also going to add in a two-minute morning meditation where I set a self-care goal for the day.

The idea behind this exercise, based on the practice of morning intentions, is to: 1. Take some space each day before the craziness begins to just be with myself for a minute, and 2. Focus in on one action that I can return to throughout the day to center and calm myself, to help myself find positivity, to remind myself that I am worth caring for, too. It’s simply a way to gather myself together each morning and focus my energy on self-love. The act of setting this goal is enough, even if I don’t come back to it later. But hopefully I will, and hopefully building this into my routine will help me practice better self-care as we adjust to the insanity that is Covid City.

I encourage you to join me in this activity. If you don’t know what to choose for your goal, perhaps something like “take a deep breath” could work, or “be nice to when I talk to myself in my head.” You can use the same goal every day, if you want. My one recommendation is to keep it specific; something like “relax” is a little broad and daunting. Choosing a simple act might feel more doable.

Today my goal is to stretch. So many of us carry tension in our neck, shoulders, back, and hips, especially those of us working from makeshift home offices and/or lugging babies around. I feel like I’ve pushed my body through the past week without considering it at all. What an amazing gift it is to have a healthy body! Particularly in these times. Today I want to be good to it, which means I’m going to get off this computer right now and do some stretches.  Maybe I will remember to do them again later, too.

What will your intention be?

Covid City 6: Embracing Change

March 18, 2020, 8 am

As it tu­rns out, it is not possible to take care of a 9-month-old, homeschool a preschooler, and also work full-time all from inside the same apartment. Especially when that apartment has only four rooms. Add to this the monumental task of explaining things to a sensitive, smart, anxious four-year-old and then helping him navigate his emotional reaction to it all. Life here in Covid City is intense.

Like many parents, Dave and I went from having 75 hours a week of childcare (L at school 8:15-5:30/6 five days a week, the baby with my in-laws from 9-6 three days a week) to having no back-up at all. M is completely off-the-hook, requiring someone on him every waking moment; literally, if you turn away for a second, he tries to kill himself. I somehow managed to work from our makeshift bedroom office on Monday while Dave kept both kids alive, and poor L was bored, sad, and emotional all day. By mid-afternoon, he broke down crying and demanded my attention (“I need more hugs,” he later said to Dave).

He needs more of a lot of things right now. To make matters harder, the only time Dave and I can plan, prep, and work through how to best provide this support is once L is asleep, which isn’t happening until 9:30/10:00 pm nowadays. And, let’s be honest, whoever is doing bedtime usually falls asleep in L’s bed before we get the chance to talk; L has been having nightmares, M has been teething, and so Dave and I are maybe getting four hours of broken sleep a night. These two kiddos are exhausting.

Shockingly, I did get some work done on Monday. And you know what? It felt completely irrelevant. Why was I writing a biweekly report instead of writing homeschool plans or emails to my loved ones? Why was I confirming advisement calls when we have no idea what next semester will even look like? Another COVID-19 season will arrive before a vaccine has been properly tested and put into place. Society as we know is only going to keep changing.

CUNY, and all other employers, need a long-term plan here, not just some weird attempt to move old routines and expectations from offices into homes. Too many people, higher-ups in particular, are clinging to a model that has quickly become ridiculous. It doesn’t make sense to keep working as usual right now.

I’m personally lucky enough to have some PTO to use for the rest of this week, but even that phrase, “PTO to use,” feels absurd. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs, to the point that the unemployment website crashed when Dave tried to access it last night (now they’re doing a staggered schedule based on last name, so Dave’s assigned time slot to apply is Thursday morning). Our entire global economy is ready to collapse. Healthcare facilities are overwhelmed as confirmed cases continue to rise. Right now, what matters most to me is not clocking in work hours. Instead I need to focus on taking proper care of these kids, staying connected to my people, and squeezing in self-care as I can, which means writing and meditating because that is how I stay sane.

Also how I stay sane: pointing out the positives, no matter how small they are. Here are some of my positives for you:

  • It is wonderful to not rush around every morning, racing to get everyone dressed, fed, and dropped off so that I can get to the office on time.
  • It is equally wonderful to forgo the mad dash from the office to the subway to L’s school for pick-up by 6 pm.
  • Homeschool is actually fun. I mean, I studied Early Childhood Education and taught preschool for years so that helps. And L is super into learning. But even if those things weren’t true, there’s something special about doing this together.
  • M is nine months old today! And he is trying to talk! Cannot wait to hear what his first word is.
  • These kids eat SO MUCH food. It’s impressive. But also my kitchen is a disaster. But also, that’s okay.
  • The pets are thrilled. They are quite therapeutic, and it’s super sweet to watch them bond with the baby. I love how oblivious those three are.
  • Signs of spring are everywhere. When L spots a dandelion during a dog walk, he gleefully squeals and runs over to pick this weed of a flower then show it off to me with reverence. Adults have strayed way too far from the things that matter.


As crazy as it is to be a parent under quarantine in Covid City, it’s also fun; my adorable little life-suckers provide quite a bit of welcome levity, and they do an excellent job of distracting me from the news. That being said, I don’t think yesterday would have gone as well if we hadn’t implemented a new schedule with multiple activities. I know not every family and kid needs that kind of structure, but if you’re like us, I pasted our adjusted schedule and new ideas for you below. Keep in mind that we don’t intend to do this every day. In fact, L is watching Moana right now.

Parents, whether you’re homeschooling, doing art projects, or watching shows and eating Cheetos all day, you’re a freaking badass. Stay strong.


New Schedule, Adjusted After Homeschool Experiment Day 1, and Very Loosely Interpreted on Day 2
9:00     Family Circle Time: Good morning / Day & Date / Feelings Check-in / Book
9:30     Independent work at dining table (details below)
10:00   Center time: Creative, Science, Math, Library, Music, Computer, or just TV (more below)
10:45   Snack
10:55   Meditation/breathing exercise
11:00   Project Time –“animal of the week” (see below) or a one-off
11:30   Clean Up
11:35   Dance party
11:45   Reading on the couch (L reads a book or sight-word cards)
12:00   Adult does lunch prep while L watched Doodles with Mo Willems (this is great, L likes it)
12:15   Lunch
12:45   Quiet/alone time in room
1:30     Family exercises (see below)
1:45     Nature walk with Basil or watch TV or Center Time Rd 2 (same centers as Rd 1)
2:45     Snack
3:00     Chores
3:30     Meditation/breathing exercise
3:35     Family meeting
3:45     Homeschool ends, turn the TV on and bring me a margarita immediately

Independent Work: High Five puzzle book, math sheets from the web, writing letters in a notebook

Center Ideas & Locations:
-Creative on coffee table: coloring pages, paper and crayons, stickers, cutting things out
-Science on balcony: nature box, planting and watering seeds, dissecting my dead garden, digging in a planter full of dirt, using a magnifying glass to inspect the random things out there
-Math on dining table: addition/subtraction puzzle, counting & sorting items, toy abacus
-Library on couch: Lots of cozy pillows with books and sight-word cards
-Music in living room: play instruments, sing karaoke, pick a record and discuss what instruments you hear

Animal of the week: Choose an animal and throughout the week, watch Nat Geo and Animal Planet videos, makes notes of facts about it, do art projects, listen to songs, “dance” like the animal, discuss what it eats, look at map to see where it lives

This week for us is the octopus: Nat Geo Doc (4 mins), Nat Geo Pics & Facts Slideshow, “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles, making octopus tentacles with tissue paper leftover from Xmas, acting like an octopus, finding sets of 8 things around the apartment

Family Exercises: Go Noodle has a lot of options we haven’t explored yet. Yesterday we did this intense video but were terrible at it and laughed a lot, so that was fun.

Covid City 5: Slow Down

March 16, 2020 7:15 am967550910_203cea191b_o
Today is not the day to launch that ambitious homeschool plan. Today is not the day to clock in eight hours from your makeshift bedroom office. Today is not the day to refresh the news every minute and worry over what will happen next.

It has happened. School is canceled. Concerts are canceled. Bars are canceled. Offices are canceled. Normal life as we know it is canceled.

But you know what’s not canceled? Nature, friendship, walks, exercise, meditation, art, books, dancing, singing, loving.

For today, let’s try to process and breathe, to let ourselves settle a little. We’ll figure things out as we go. Perhaps the plans we make will work for us. Perhaps they won’t. But right now, for today, let’s try to relax.

I went on a run yesterday and was reminded of how simple yet powerful running can be. It’s been awhile since I was a regular runner, but last night, I slipped on my old trusty sneakers and ran out the door. At first my thoughts raced in circles, winding through all the disruptions of the past few days, my daunting to-do list, the plethora of unknowns that remain, but the beautiful thing about running is that it eventually takes over. The pounding of my feet, the depth of my breath, the pace of my heart. Every time I run, my body finds its own rhythm that pulls me away from my mind and shuts off my thoughts. Afterwards, I am always refreshed (if also exhausted and sore).

If you can, get outside today (in a safe, socially-distant way, obviously). I have to work most of the day, but at a certain point, I do plan to shut off my computer and phone and go to the beach with my family. We need these escapes, these breaks, these resets. Everything has changed so quickly; it’s time for a collective slow down – of both the virus and ourselves.

To those of you who are differently abled, sick, living alone, or for another reason unable to walk, exercise, get outside, or physically be with your people, I hope you can find other ways to connect. Perhaps sitting by a window to birdwatch will help, or Facetiming with a friend. But to matter what you decide to do, please know I am sending big love.

Because ultimately, that’s what today (dare I say every day?) is all about: love.

Covid City 4: Homeschooling + Talking to Kids + Parents Unite

March 15, 2020 9:05 pmScreen Shot 2020-03-15 at 7.11.35 PM
“But mommy, if you go to work you’ll get sick.”

When L, my four-almost-five-year-old, said this to me on Friday morning, I knew it was the last day I’d be going in to the office no matter what the mayor and governor decided. My baby was scared; he needed his mom. But even without the fear, he was right – none of us should have gone to work or school on Friday, especially those of us who rode the subway.

“It’s okay, there aren’t large groups of people at my work and so it’s different from Daddy’s work,” I said.

I continued to explain things from the public-health approach: “In order to make sure everyone stays healthy, we have to stop gathering big groups of people together for awhile. We’re washing our hands a lot, too, right? Everyone is doing the same thing. We’re all working together to keep everyone healthy.” He had a million questions. We muddled through.

6E6E31C4-7CAB-4575-8500-4E0AD302207DAnd now it’s official: NYC schools are closed. In as cheery a voice as possible, I said to L, “Guess what? Remember how Daddy’s work was closed and you said that your school and my work should close, too? Well, you were right. Everything is closing to make sure that we can all do our best to stay home and keep each other healthy.”

He thought this meant one endless weekend. Dave and I had to backpedal a bit and go over the homeschool idea, how we’re going to follow a schedule, how Mommy and Daddy are also going to be his teacher now, too.

“What do you think about that?” I asked.

“Fun!” L replied. Then he launched into a whole imaginative game in which he was the teacher, ordering us around.

“Hon, it’s okay to play this game right now, but starting tomorrow, we’re your teachers for real. Got it?”

“Got it, Mommy. We’re the fun makers, ya?”

Oh. My. God. Dave and I are supposed to homeschool our big kid while our nine-month-old baby crawls around – our off-the-chains, bonkers baby who unplugs appliances and tries to lick the prongs of the connector, who gleefully eats tape and dog fur, who climbs on top of tables and bounces, somehow in a matter of seconds. Practically speaking, the only surface in the entire apartment tall enough to do school work out of the baby’s reach is the dining table. Where we eat. Plus, I’m supposed to also work 35 hours a week from inside the same Brooklyn apartment. This place is gonna be trashed.

I guess the silver lining to Dave’s sudden availability is that he can now take over with the kids. There are already tons of resources out there. Plenty of people have homeschooled before us. But those people chose to do this; here in Covid City, we do what we have to do.

IMG_3818Sometimes this whole thing feels like a wild experiment a group of aliens is performing on us, like how the earth was created in The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy because the intergalactic space team needed a new computer. But this is not a sci-fi novel. This is reality, and it’s only going to get more intense. Good thing we’ve been stockpiling snacks and liquor!

Y’all, this school-closure thing is likely to last the remainder of the semester. We have to stay connected, to share schedules, plans, ideas, resources, tips for staying sane. I’m going to start an email list for parents; leave a comment if you want to be added.

And if you need a place to start, I pasted my homeschool schedule-in-progress below, as well as a list of ideas that a few parent friends have contributed to; I tried to model our plans after L’s Pre-K class to provide some consistency (hence things like “Center Time”). Best of luck to those of you with older kids!

And, as always, don’t forget to BREATHE. We’re okay. Even when locked up in our apartments away from each other, we still have each other. We will get through this together.

Very (Probably Overly) Ambitious Homeschool Schedule Draft
Note: This plan is created with my family’s personalities in mind; every family has its own unique needs. 

9:00 Family Circle Time: Good morning / Day & Date / Feelings Check-in / Song and dance
9:15 Independent worksheets (math or penmanship) – M goes down for 1st nap
9:30 Center time: Art, Kitchen, Music, Computer, and/or Science
10:00 Clean Up
10:10 Nature walk with Basil (our dog)
10:45 Snack
11:00 Project time
11:15 Dance break
11:20 Center time: Art, Kitchen, Music, Computer, and/or Science
11:45 Reading (L reads aloud then an adult reads aloud)
12:00 Cooking/Lunch prep (L free play if easier)
12:15 Lunch
12:45 Quiet/alone time
1:30 Family exercises – Go Noodle
1:45 Snack
2:00 Nature walk with Basil
2:30 Project time
3:00 Center time: Art, Music, Computer, and/or Science
3:30 Facetime or call friend/fam
3:45 Homeschool ends, from here it’s free

For those of you looking for a less structured or busy schedule, here’s another template*:

Project-Time and Center-Time Ideas
– drawing pics for friends/family and emailing them
– boiling and dyeing eggs
– finger-painting in the tub
– cooking projects
– exploring our musical instruments
– online karaoke/learning a song
– baking bread or cookies
– planting seeds (a project to monitor)
– baking-soda volcano
– making a paper kite
– making play dough
– coloring on coffee filters with markers then dipping them in water and watching it run
– rain cloud in a jar (shaving cream, water, food coloring)
– walking water rainbow (water, food coloring, paper towels, jars)
– making and decorating a gingerbread house
– Google-ing items we discover on nature walks
– giving presentations or making books about our discoveries
– creating a nature box
– bird watching (praise be we have a balcony!)
– reading through field guides and nature books
– choosing an animal a week to focus on (research, art projects, pretend play, etc)
– lots and lots of dance parties
making bubbles
PBS Kids
Learning Lift Off: 20 Best Homeschooling Websites & Resources

 

*This post was updated on 3/16/20 to include the second template.