Considering the New Normal for a Very Long Summer

Last time, I left you in terrible suspense about whether or not we would obtain lightbulbs for our kitchen before the sun went down, so I’m going to let you know that we did not receive the light bulbs for 5 days after the order was placed. I was forced to cook our beef tenderloin in less than optimal lighting that night, and I think that might be the epitome of first world problems. 

We picked up the long-awaited light bulbs a couple of nights ago, and replaced only one of the burned out bulbs. As it would turn out, we have grown accustomed to the mood lighting provided by 2 out of the 4 bulbs and found any more light than that offensive to our eyes and spirits during this time, so we have yet to replace the remaining 2 burned out bulbs. Maybe this is our version of flying flags at half mast; we express our Corona grief by illuminating our kitchen at only half capacity. 

Wheelchair
A work in progress…

In other news, there is now a wheelchair taking up residence in my driveway, which is by far the most exotic item my child has brought home from her exploits in the neighborhood. The neighborhood girl gang spent an entire morning embellishing the wheelchair with beads and stickers and by attaching pieces of old trophies to the handlebars. The piece de resistance, however, is the string of brightly colored flags one would generally find at a car lot wrapped around the entirety of this neighborhood art project. 

Obviously, this called for a socially-distanced parade, and the entire day was spent by all the neighborhood children riding up and down the hill of the neighborhood. In all my fantasies about being a parent, I never once expected that I would have to help negotiate taking turns and lecture about sharing in regards to a wheelchair. All I can really say is that Corona parenting is trippy, y’all. 

By the end of the weekend, there were plans for a neighborhood socially-distanced lemonade stand, cupcake bake-off, and Olympic competitions. Once again, I am reminded that this neighborhood and the spirit of not only looking out for each other but also enjoying each other is a real blessing, and yet, somewhere in all that planning for activities that are usually saved for the summer, it hit me: this is it. This is the new normal. This is how it is now and for the foreseeable future, and something about that felt very sobering.

You see, we have been one-day-at-a-timing this thing for what feels like an eternity. Our school assignments come in one day at a time. My work schedule has changed almost daily as the needs of my clients have changed. It seems that we’ve all been holding our breath until this thing passes, much like I find myself holding my breath in Walmart if I find that I have no other option but to walk past another person in the aisle. And, well, neither one of those things is sustainable long-term. At some point, I’m going to need to breathe, and we’re all going to need to make some plans beyond what snacks we’re going to eat tomorrow. 

This realization ended up being the theme for the week, as I spoke with various people about their impending return to work or a choice they were having to make about a potential trip. The fact of the matter is, the mandated, universal protocols that we should all be following are beginning to fade, and we are being released into the world with only our homemade masks and our good judgement and common sense. God help us, right?! Things are so much easier when clear lines are drawn and so much harder when we must make judgement calls. 

My mind has been busy this week, trying to wrap itself around what this new normal may look like for this little family. I’ve been trying to imagine how comfortable I might feel eating in a restaurant or going to the gym surrounded by masked faces and gloved hands. More immediately, I’ve been trying to wrap my mind around taking my child into a store for the first time, because she is spending most of her time barefoot right now and the shipping of those shoes I ordered weeks ago keeps being delayed. At the rate she is growing, by the time the shoes actually arrive, there is a good chance they won’t fit anymore. Pretty soon, the aid of a measuring tool and the ability to try some shoes on her actual feet is going to be necessary, so what good judgement and common sense looks like in that scenario has been my mental gymnastics for the week. 

It makes me grateful that the new TV I ordered arrived in time for an end of the week respite. If only shoes would arrive as quickly as televisions, but at this juncture, perhaps a new TV will keep us from actually needing to put on shoes for a little while longer. Our brains are very tired from navigating the unknowns and uncertainties of this interesting and odd time we are living in, and a little time being entertained with little effort required from us is exactly what is needed.

After all, we need to be rested for the next round of weekend wheelchair parades, national lemonade day celebrations, and cupcake competitions…and whatever else gets dreamed up this weekend. Here’s to new normals and neighborhood entertainment: may they keep us sane during a very long summer.

 

My Daughter has learned to cook during quarantine, and we’re going to need more eggs….

gabriel-gurrola-CxSIQqRnrns-unsplash
Photo by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

I don’t know how things are going at your house, but corona quarantine has made our life both incredibly interesting and entirely mundane. 

On the more mundane side, I’ve started cooking again and not because I enjoy cooking. Initially, I only started cooking because all the sudden I had the time to do it and because grabbing food out had become a little more difficult. As the weeks sequestered in my home with the same old fare lingered on, I became desperate for something new. 

“I can’t take it anymore. I cannot eat the same thing for the 6th week in a row!” I yelled mostly at the refrigerator but also in an attempt to communicate what was coming to my picky child. She just looked at me with the expression of the mildly annoyed, more mature witness to this outburst. I feared that she is about to say something reasonable, like “we have plenty of food in this pantry” so I continued on with my crusade for finer cuisine before she could say anything. 

“Listen,” I began, “This is what’s going to happen. I’m going to sign up for one of those services where they send you the ingredients and tell you how to cook it, because I need something new without the responsibility of having to comb through thousands of Pinterest pages to find it. I’m going to let them decide for me and send it to me. And then I’m going to make it and you’re going to try it, you hear me?! And if you don’t like it, fine, but you’re going to try it and then you can make yourself something else.” 

“Fine,” she says, not even putting up a fight, “As long as I can make something else if I don’t like it.” 

I think the only reason she so willingly resigned to my new food proclamation is that just before quarantine we discovered that she is finally tall enough to use the microwave and began heating up some of her own food. She has continued to expand her skill in the kitchen during quarantine and can now use the stove to fry her own eggs. 

Oh, the fried egg. It is her current favorite food. She would eat half a dozen of them in one sitting if I would let her. I would complain about that, but the fried egg with salt and pepper is the only thing that broke down my daughter’s inexplicable disdain for pepper, so I owe it a debt of gratitude and therefore allow the fried egg phase to stand. I only pray that soon she will discover some form of toasted bread and perhaps some melted cheese and consume her eggs with any combination of these things rather than using her fingers to deliver the egg directly to her mouth. It would be a small mercy for which I would be forever grateful. 

The interesting part to me in this scaled back, run of the mill, mundane quarantine life we have going on is how much it has allowed her to grow. Cooking isn’t the only new skill she has picked up, she has also learned how to do laundry. We have even instituted mother-daughter folding time and tackle laundry mountain together. She has learned to unload the dishwasher and run the vacuum. Suddenly, I feel like if she had to move into her college dorm tomorrow, she just might survive. The pace of our life has slowed down just enough to allow her to finally, successfully memorize those multiplication tables and for me to be able to teach her some important life skills. She’s going to walk out of quarantine able to feed and clothe herself, and that seems pretty amazing to me. 

The grief process during the shut down and quarantine was significant and real. I felt it, my child felt it, my clients felt it; we all felt the wild and mixed emotions of grief. Now there is talk of reopening the country and getting everything back up and going, and honestly, that makes me a little sad, too. I just settled into this slower pace of life, and frankly, it suits me quite well. It seems to suit this little family even better, and I’m beginning to suspect that there will be a little grief when the schedules fill up again and our time together at home is all about chores, dinner, baths, homework and how quickly we can get those things done so we can be in bed on time. 

We needed this respite. I knew we needed it before it was involuntarily thrust upon us, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it happen. I’m hoping to come out of this thing with some new ideas and new zeal for protecting my time. Quarantine has certainly presented some unexpected challenges, but it has presented some unexpected blessings, as well. The gift of time, as it turns out, has some arms and legs to it that extend well into the future, and I’m curious to see what kind of life we all return to. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m not in a hurry to return to the hurry.