The COVID Diaries Part One: The Lockdown Months.

We’ve now been in this new state of reality for circa 150 days.

Remember when we thought it would be two weeks? How we reassured ourselves it wouldn’t affect the fall?? How your husband planned to celebrate all the holidays we missed (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, birthdays, etc.) with a big cookout on the 4th of July???

{moment of silence and/or sobs and/or maniacal slightly-demented laughter}

The scenery of The COVID World has changed quite a bit over the months – we’re not in the “don’t leave the house” strict quarantine we were in for the first 30 days. It’s still a weird You-Can-Leave-The-House-But-You-Will-Be-Judged-Based-On-Its-Worthiness time, but it’s even weirder to think back on those early days.

I’ve spent some time trying to recall that first month (I’ve apparently already blocked it), using pictures from my phone and reading my diary to help. Those days before I even owned a mask because I wasn’t leaving the house. Back when I didn’t go inside of any type of retail establishment for 51 days (that’s what antsy “essential working” spouses and grocery delivery are for), and didn’t have Starbucks for 60 days.

Because for me, that month was pretty much the strangest thing that’s ever happened in my life. For my kids, they’re just kinda cool with it like this is something that happens every now and then. I sincerely HOPE that in 30 years they look back on this year and say “that was the strangest thing that’s ever happened in my life”, too, and not “oh yeah – that was the first year of The Quarantine Decades.”

But to help them with their recollections, and to document The Weirdest Thing in My Life, here’s what went down in our quarantine.

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Remember in the beginning, when everyone’s main priority was entertaining and encouraging their neighbors? We all put drawings on the doors, hid scavenger hunt pictures in the windows and yards, and CHALK ART.

It was the rage.

There was this one particular look of stained glass (helped with painter’s tape) that EVERYONE was doing. Which of course we could only know because of Facebook.

We turned ours into a robot, then made a tree with a snake. Because why not. It’s not like there was any other way to connect with humans (except the dreaded Zoom – shiver) – this was before you even felt comfortable when a neighbor was walking by your house on the other side of the street.

So Chalk Art it was.

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But somehow on our neighborhood walks, I always found scary things like this broken piece of positivity,
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oh – and if Evil Tree Nymphs are a thing, I met one.
IMG_3965I still have nightmares about him.

Puzzles had their Best Month Ever. We (okay mostly I) did several, and I even made some from my local photos to make it more fun. Who knew you had so much time for puzzles when you didn’t leave the house?

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Meanwhile, I was spending too much time shopping online for clothes I had no purpose for, and Hautelook was trying to sell me activewear that basically sums up the crap-show that 2020 is.IMG_4785

Because if 2020 were a piece of clothing, it would DEFINITELY be a Sleeveless Sport Romper.

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One of the biggest blessings of 2020 was the fact that at the very beginning of the year, we began construction on a new back porch – covered and screened – and it was finishing up right when lockdown started.

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Of all the years to need more OUTDOOR living space, this was the one that it mattered.

We spent many lazy Saturday mornings reading, drinking coffee together, and doing what quarantine does best – nothing at all.IMG_4738IMG_4749

The best THING we accomplished in quarantine was severely cleaning out our basement.

We aren’t hoarders, I mean, we’re NOT – we just don’t always take time to throw things away – several things, OK – LOTS of things, especially big things. For years we’ve talked about renting a dumpster and getting rid of things all at once, but spending a weekend throwing stuff out just isn’t our jam.

So I told Chris that if we don’t do it now, when we’re stuck at home anyway, we will literally never do it.

He agreed. And the next week, he had us a giant dumpster delivered and ready to go.

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We filled. That. Thing. Up.

30 cubic yards of freedom in 5 introverted weekends.

And it felt so good.

It took five weekends of hard labor, such as going through college notes and middle school diaries and finding my cast from when I broke my arm in seventh grade – but dang it we threw some crap out.

It’s not like I was ever going to need that 17 year old test sheet for Tax Accounting ever again, but it did sting a bit to throw out all that hard work.

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The softball trophies all got trashed,IMG_4938

As did all my employee awards from my pre-kid career.IMG_5004

But I kept the diaries. I need my grandkids to ask me what a “catalog” was.

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I did find two very useful items hidden in the basement, though probably woefully expired.
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Week Five was the week I finally got desperate enough to paint.

I don’t dislike painting, but the prep is exhausting. And my office / guest room has been the ugliest baby poop beige for the 13 years that we’ve lived in our house, and I’ve always wanted it to be a more relaxing space. And when better to create more relaxing spaces than in Week Five of COVID Lockdowns?

Even Noah got in on the fun.IMG_4413

Here’s the before and after:IMG_4473

SO MUCH HAPPIER SPACE.

Then I painted the front door…and a bathroom…and I got so mad at the world one day that I pressure washed the sidewalk while barefoot with our overpowered hose. And left my mark while I did it.
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The kids and I did a bunch of experiments and activities – some of which were not as successful as others.

Baking Soda + Vinegar + Food Coloring Painting is not as pretty as Pinterest advertises.

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Sorry kids. No one ever said Quarantine would be fun.

The extreme satisfaction of water beads, however, somewhat made up for failed baking soda experiments.76DAD0E3-6AAD-4FAF-A8C3-3116CAA57A2E

I was introduced to a new treat by my friend Nikki that got me through the first few weeks – Dalgona Coffee. IMG_4524

I’m a bit tired of it now, but man was it a needed something special. It’s a weird creation, but well worth the research if you’ve never heard of it.

(Quick interruption to this long monologue for a recipe: blend 2 tbsp of Instant Coffee and 2 tbsp of sugar with 2 tbsp of boiling water until it becomes a very thick foam that looks unsettlingly like peanut butter. Then you dole it out onto a little bit of half and half or creamer or milk, and slightly mix it up as you drink it.)

It’s bizarrely good – and also bizarre.

I tried to use lockdown to teach Ali how to like coffee, but no matter how sweet I made it, she was involuntarily forced to stick out her tongue and say “eeeueegh” with each sip.IMG_4862

Speaking of bizarre. I think those first few birthday parades will be something that we all remember as “can you believe we did that, and furthermore that some city governments tried to tell us that even birthday parades with windows rolled up were unsafe?”

For those sadly unlucky children who had their birthdays in the deepest deep of lockdowns, we made birthday bunting,

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Hand Puppets,IMG_4476

Found the most rocking “Happy Birthday” on Spotify, and cheered them on from the safety of our cars. Car Horns are having THE BEST YEAR EVER.

I’m sorry, Unlucky Lockdown Children. You get a Double Portion of Birthday in 2021.IMG_3941

Easter 2020 was an unforgettable one: Easter baskets on Saturday (SACRILEGE!), church via livestream (LAZINESS!). On the porch (HERESY!). With Buddy the Snake joining in (Snakes are part of the Easter Prequel, so it works). IMG_4135

Noah did enjoy getting to join the praise team, though. Chris only wishes he was hipster enough to pull off a toboggan/ukulele/pajama pants combo. 

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In their Easter Baskets, for which I shopped via Amazon and grocery delivery (thank you, Shipt, for bringing me all those jelly beans), we tried to get the kids things that would occupy them. These building straws were a huge hit, until I got extraordinarily tired of them in my living room and the kids weren’t willing to give up their bedroom floor space for their own construction projects. Upside: permanent re-usable straws for multiple generations.
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On my first time back to actual running out-of-doors, I got splatter-pooped by a bird.

Again, yup. That about sums it up. 60971698164__AF61570D-54C2-4496-B162-7E7F7EBF9A32 2

Early on in our cluelessness, I remember even feeling guilty walking around our neighborhood.

All the parks were closed.

All walking areas were off limits, except your own neighborhood. Chris took this quite literally, and sometimes disappeared for hours on foot, because if you go on foot, it was okay, right?

Thank goodness “outside” eventually became all of our safe space just before I lost my mind.

On one of our earliest ventures to a park – one of the first to open back up – we saw FIVE families of baby geese and ducks. 
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After being in strict quarantine, it was an extreme happy place.

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This was another one of our early outings, where Noah could blessedly get out some pent-up energy – poor kid. Nine year old boys should not be kept indoors. 25857A6D-9893-4643-A65E-06D1D5418F85

The kids taught themselves how to do a lot of computing. Noah started by making his own business cards (super duper applicable during a lockdown and all)
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Ali learned how to use Excel for things like list-making (because the girl appreciates a to-do list), and then she taught herself and Noah how to “use” Excel for more creative pursuits. Spreadsheets are so 2019.



Solitaire became a favorite game for man and beast,
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And I shopped for bras to wear in an at-home life – enough of a bra that I wouldn’t be embarrassed if a neighbor stopped to talk at a 6 foot distance, but not so much bra that I felt constricted. I found a section called “comfort bras” on Hautelook. But I immediately realized that their idea of comfort is not the same as my idea of comfort.

 

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We finished school still during the stay at home order, and also on a puzzlingly freezing May day, but we couldn’t break tradition. We went to the clock tower anyway for our annual family meeting. We made it quick, and tried to stay out of sight.

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Thankfully, no errant COVID strains were hanging out there.
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And somehow we actually didn’t forget to take our comparison photos for beginning of school / end of school, though admittedly they were a few days late.

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Look at those first day of school kids. So young. So innocent. So clueless as to how they’d finish the school year – with raggedly-long hair and overwhelming missing of their friends that was only treatable by the horrible beast that is Zoom.

My literal first indoor store experience was 51 days in, to PetCo for Buddy. Because one can only hoard frozen mice for so long.

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On my first run in the woods, I found a family of four baby armadillos. I was lonely enough that I stalked the said armadillos. One walked up to my shoes and apparently thought I was his mommy. We needed each other, ‘Dillo and me.

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Then he taught me where the idea for Shrek Ears originated.

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Finally, as our state began to change to the next stage of The COVID Experience, I couldn’t help but gasp at Alabama’s COVID marketing team. Because if “Safer Apart” is the goal, I want a new goal-setter.

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TO BE CONTINUED…