Day in the Life of WFH and Homeschooling Mom

Since March 13, 2020, I have been a full-time working from home mom who also sort of homeschools two kids. I say sort of because since the end of March last year, the NYC DOE has been having Zoom/Google classroom schooling. But back then, I had to do everything for both of them, including keep two very separate schedules. And also do my own job. And also feed everyone.

Slowly, everything has been shifting. Since the fall, my older son has been able to handle all of his assignments without my help. This morning, my younger son showed me that he finally learned to take attendance by himself.

But these homeschooling days may soon be over. Next week, my kids are supposed to go back to school five days a week, from 8am to 2pm. I am very glad my older son, who is graduating elementary school in June, will have the opportunity to see all of his classmates in person again before switching schools and maybe not seeing them again ever.

It’s a little bittersweet, because while this life has been challenging, I feel like I never would have gotten the opportunity to know my kids so well had we not been forced to be in each others presence for 24 hours a day for more than a year. Thinking about that give me the idea of writing down my typical daily schedule, before it changes again.

6:30am: I wake up and quickly run to let Ziggy (who’s 95% house trained) outside. I haven’t set an alarm in more than a year. This is just when I get up now. Then I feed my cat, Oz, while the dog is still outside. Once he’s eating, I let her in and get her breakfast. Then I make coffee.

7:00am: This is probably my favorite time of day. No one else is up yet. I typically drink my coffee while sitting in the bay window and reading a book. When I commuted, I loved reading on the train, and it was the one time dedicated to reading for pleasure. Since I don’t commute anymore, my reading time went way down in 2020. But now that I’ve found this perfect time to read, I’m a lot happier. Plus, unlike subway reading, I can do it in my pajamas with my feet up.

It’s hard to read when being squeaked at!

7:30-8:00am: The kids wake up and demand breakfast. I attempt to get them dressed as well.

8:00am: I take Ziggy out for a short walk while the kids eat and watch TV. Note that my spouse is still home–the kids are not alone.

8:30am: School starts for both kids. Sometimes, I have to do something with the younger but usually I take the opportunity to eat breakfast.

9:00am: Work starts officially for me. I get another drink (sometimes coffee or tea or just water) and head into my private office, which I am so happy to have.

9:20am: Morning class is over for my younger son. He comes to tell me this and then sits by me while reading a book.

9:45am: Book finished, son begs for “free time.” Usually I am working, so I have no choice but to allow the free time.

11:15am: Older son reports that his class is over. He either plays with Ziggy in the yard or reads or plays with his brother. I may walk the dog if she’s not playing. Otherwise, I start lunch prep. They kids eat lunch early because of class schedules.

12:10pm: Younger son’s second class starts. I usually take my lunch back to my office.

2:00pm: Officially school is over at this time, but there is still a lot to do depending on the day. My older son has piano class once a week, a school tutor once a week, and a private tutor twice a week. My younger son has both a school tutor and a private tutor twice a week. Once I get them settled, I’ll try to step away for a short walk with the dog. Then, back to work.

5:00pm: Work is over! I am fortunate to work for a place that allows me to take breaks as needed, but at the end of the day I am very happy to forget work and take a long walk with the dog. Sometimes, people will come with me, but I don’t mind either way.

6:00pm: Back home and dinner for the animals, and then I prepare dinner for the humans. We are usually done with dinner by 7.

7:00pm: If there is no homework to do and it’s nice, we all might go for another walk, especially if, for some reason, I’ve had to skip the earlier one. If not, we all might watch TV together or play a game. I have a low level of patience for TV, so I can only do this for about an hour before I switch to something else, like reading or artwork. The kids can play video games with their friends at this time, so they usually do this, either by zoom meeting or facetime. This has been their primary means of socialization for some time, and I’m glad they do get to talk to other kids apart from zoom school.

A walk at the local reservoir.

9:30pm: Bedtime for kids. They take showers, youngest first. When he’s done, we read a physical book while the older is showering. Then they both listen to an audio book while I shower and get ready for bed.

10:30pm: I let the dog out one last time and then retrieve my phone from the kids room and say goodnight (even though they are asleep). Our cat, Oz, sleeps with the boys. He takes turns which bed he sleeps in. Then I go to bed. Ziggy runs upstairs after her last potty break and passes out immediately on my bed, so I usually have to ask her to roll over. I may read or meditate, or just pass out immediately as well.

Exciting, no?!? Well, boring or not, I have been having a great time with more relaxing days at home with my kids than I ever thought possible. While I am looking forward to them being back in school, I know I will miss this time!

A Week of Kid Lunches

When my kids used to go to an actual in-person school, they ate school lunch every day and appeared to like it. Since they ate cereal bars on the walk to school most days, I only had to worry about feeding them dinner, and to be fair, this was more like five times a week because of take-out and actually eating out. Then, more than a year ago now, I suddenly started having to feed them every single meal at home.

My younger son in the PB&J days.

At first, last March, I made the same lunches for everyone, every day. That lunch was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with raw veggies, fresh fruit, and a handful of chips. It soon because apparent that I’m the only one who actually enjoys that lunch (go figure! PB&Js are great!). One year later and I seem to have figured it out somewhat. I give my kids basically the same lunches every week, but in random order. Those lunches are mac and cheese, ramen, egg and cheese sandwiches, pizza rolls, and cheese and crackers and hummus. Lunches are still served with raw veggies (so glad they like raw veggies). And then they eat fruit and chips in the afternoon when zoom school is out at 2pm. Dinner is still a work in progress!

I will still happily eat PB&J but limit myself to once a week!

When Is a Fish Not a Fish?

Long ago, I was an apartment dweller, and wished I could get a large fish tank. But I did not, as I was afraid something would happen in the apartment and it would break or spill and the people under us would have stuff wrecked, and I don’t know. When we bought our house, I almost immediately got a 20-gallon tank and gradually, a bunch of fish. Samir was about three years old and enjoyed it as well. Actually, you can read all about it in this post.

So, yeah, I no longer had a fish tank. But years ago, before I had bought that 20-gallon tank, I also bought a small, 5-gallon tank, but never used it, because I wanted a bigger tank. That small tank was still in a box in the basement, and I took it out and set it up. Why did I do this? Samir still is upset about the fact that I got rid of the larger tank and had been asking for a Betta fish forever. It is a corner tank, and I realized I have a corner in my kitchen that goes pretty far back, so it’s not like you would use it for preparing a meal anyway. Plus, being the kitchen, it’s right near the sink, so cleaning the tank will be much easier.

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Samir gradually coming to the realization that a pet fish doesn’t do that much.

The two kids had a great time picking out the gravel and tank decorations, and of course the fish himself. For the first ten minutes or so, they were very excited about having a fish. Then they were way less excited about having a fish. Feeding time came, and they fought over the privilege to feed the fish. Then they fed the fish and soon were no longer excited to feed the fish. Eventually, we decided to name the fish, and Samir suggested Joey Ramone the Second, which was unanimously approved.

We’ve had Joey for about a month now, and the kids are mostly uninterested. Oh well. So much for my rule of, “If it’s your fish, you have to feed it and clean the tank or it will die.” I do enjoy watching him swim around while I cook dinner or do the dishes. And Bettas are pretty smart, so to cut down on debris in the tank, I’ve trained him to take individual pellets of food from my hand. A friend watched Joey swim up on my command, and said, “If you have trained a fish to eat from your hand, then that fish is clearly your fish.”

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When is a fish not a fish? When it’s Joey Ramone the Second!

Blah, just blah

 

eunni

The eunni of a forced gathering demonstrated by yours truly and my mother, sometime in the 1990s.

I may have already said this last year, but I do not care for the winter holidays, and that includes Thanksgiving. In fact, everything that happens after Halloween and before the spring equinox is just blah, in my opinion. I know many people have great memories of Thanksgivings with their families, but some of us also have memories that are not so great.

My family did celebrate Thanksgiving when I was a child, but my mother did not like it. She used to say, “It’s just work for me while everyone else relaxes, and look what it represents.” I have the exact same sentiment today. I do not enjoy cooking. This holiday is just me annoying myself with an activity I do not like. And before anyone assumes I was a terrible person because I didn’t help my mother, I will say that I went I was old enough to be a help cooking, I started to work on Thanksgiving. When I came back from my teenage job at a horse stable, I had to take a shower before I could help in the kitchen. And by then, everything was done. I know, I could have not gone to work and helped my mother instead, but I was a young teenager who loved horses and money and hated cooking.

When I was slightly older, and had moved to college, I went through a period of a few years in which my parents didn’t want to see or talk to me. Since my parents are both long dead and can’t defend their decision, I will say that I wasn’t the most pleasant person during this time of my life. Still, it hurt to be asked to not come over for Thanksgiving. It hurt so much that whenever I think of Thanksgiving, that is the Thanksgiving that immediately comes to mind.

I was living in the college dorms, and almost everyone else had gone home for the Thanksgiving break. The cafeteria was closed too, of course. I didn’t have a car. There was a 7-11 (convenience store) within walking distance, so once a day I would go there and get a coffee, buttered roll, and one other food snack to get me through the day. (I still remember loving those damn buttered rolls!) I also had to get there before noon, or risk the 7-11 being out of buttered rolls! The horror of having to eat a 7-11 buttered bagel instead!

This was one particular Thanksgiving, but there were other holidays, including Christmas that same year, where I did not go home to see my family. Eventually, we started talking again, and I even went on to enjoy several years of a really good relationship with my mother. And yes, I also started helping her with the cooking of all large family gatherings. I use these reflections to remind myself that no matter what goes on in my kids’ lives, I should always welcome them home. Also, I try very hard not to burden my kids with my own hang-ups, so we still celebrate some manner of Thanksgiving. I actually find I enjoy it more when I try to just think of it as another day, but one in which we will eat some manner of poultry and tuber.

***After writing this, I realize I just wrote another, recent post about going through some difficult times in the past. Rest assured that this is about a different difficult time. Still, realizing this has made me want to do something that actually does some good in the world, and not just cathartic bitching. (Even though one cannot downplay the value of cathartic bitching!) I’ll think more on this.***

Welcome to a New Family Member

Just a little over a year ago, one of my best friends in the world, my cat Pyewacket, passed away. I wrote a post about how terrific he was right after his passing, and you can read that here.

A few friends and family members suggested that I get another cat immediately. I didn’t do that. I wanted a cat, but the only cat I wanted was my Pye back. It took many months, almost a full year, before I stopped feeling that way. I went to a few shelters, one with just my older son and one with just my husband. Neither shelter had cats that “were good with kids.” I contacted another shelter by phone, and they said they didn’t like to place cats in homes with kids, but maybe she had a friend who had a cat that might like kids.

At this point, I pause to say WTF? Are we just as a default going to say that cats and kids do not get along? When I was about four, my parents got a cat for the first time. I grew up with cats. Also dogs. Also ferrets. Also rabbits. I don’t think I ever had an altercation with a single one of them.

Anyway…. Finally we were put in touch with someone who had a young cat in a foster situation. After many phone calls, emails, interviews, and home visits, we were granted a cat. And while I am not saying this vetting process in unnecessary, what I will say is if you want a kid, there are way fewer hoops to jump through to make that happen.

So, without further adieu, I present Oz.

oz

This photo is from his first night in the house, last Friday. He is in my kids’ bedroom. When they go to sleep (8:30-9 most nights), he also goes to sleep. He does not want to come out until morning. That first night, he slept on the floor, but every night after, he has slept in bed with my younger son. He usually likes to rest his head or a paw somewhere on him. So, take that, people who think cats and kids should not mix.

I am still getting used to the reality of having a cat again. A part of me still wants Pye back, but there are so many cats out there who do need a home, and it feels good to be able to provide for one of them.

 

 

 

 

Small moments

Elegant_Sparklers

A few weeks ago, I was out at the playground with my two kids. They were playing together, while I sat on a bench and stared off into space (a favorite pastime of mine). A little boy, who may have been about two, came over to me and started babbling. He put his hands on my knees and acted very familiar with me. I started feeling really uncomfortable and also like the parent would not be happy seeing me so close to their kid.

My two sons saw my distress and came over, and I asked them to play with him. They tried, but he would not leave me. I asked him where his parents were, and started to look around. About ten minutes later, a man came over and stopped when he saw me.

“Is he yours?” I asked.

“Yes.” He tried to take the kid’s hand, but the boy slapped him away. “Sorry, you look like his mother, who died last month.”

I was too stunned to say anything, and the man walked away, leaving me with his son. He had given me no guidance as to how to act, and generally parents frown on a stranger even touching their kid. My kids eventually got him to play, but he kept coming over to talk to me (I couldn’t understand anything) and trying to pat my hair. I let my hand rest on his shoulder, but the dad wouldn’t meet my eye, so I don’t know if he approved or not. I also let my kids play in the park for roughly two hours, because I didn’t want this kid to see me leave. I also hope that seeing me did not scar the kid somehow further.

If you can stand it, here is another emotional incident! Last week I was at the grocery store getting some things for my son’s seventh birthday party (how did that happen?). I was in the aisle that has decorative plates and whatnot, and a woman in her 70s was also there. She held up a black plate with a picture of a purple birthday cake on it, and asked me if I thought it was “too girly” for her son, who was turning 31.

Now, I’m not the type to start talking with an older woman about gender norms, especially when she was just trying to be sensitive to her son and do a nice thing, so just I told her I thought it was fine. We started talking about candle choices, and I convinced her to get the same ones I got for my son, which were sparkler candles (Note: They weren’t as spectacular as the packaging would lead you to believe, but still pretty cool.)

We talked about our respective “kids” for a few minutes, and she gave another glance toward the paper products and asked, “Do you really think it’s okay?” I told her that if my mother had been alive to celebrate my 31st birthday with me, not to mention being thoughtful enough to contemplate whether the decorations would please me or not, I would have been so grateful. We hugged and then I went to sit in my car and cry for a good ten minutes. And then I pulled myself together and continued being a mom.

Never let your past happiness get in the way of your future happiness

Like most mothers, I’m very good at mentally torturing myself. Mostly, I think: “If I hadn’t been so bad with the credit cards years ago, I wouldn’t have to work so hard now and may have even got to stay home with my baby.” Sometimes I even think I would have been just able to stay home and write for a living, making less money, but needing less. But I have bills to pay. And that’s the awful thing I realized about credit cards: most of the time you are sacrificing your future happiness for your immediate wants.

I’m not talking about necessary things, of course, but imagine this scenario. You want to start a new exercise regimen, so you go out and buy an expensive treadmill. Maybe it’s $2,000. To pay for it, you sign up for a store payment plan in which you can take 18 months to pay for it interest-free. But then it’s 18 months later and you still have about $1,000 left to pay off, except now you have to pay the 20% interest rate, so you may end up spending about $3,000 on this treadmill by the time it’s paid off in three years.

Meanwhile, what has happened to that treadmill? After using it for the first few months, it has become an extremely overpriced, unsightly clothing rack. Maybe you can offload it on Craigslist, and get $300 for it, but meanwhile you are still paying for it via the credit card bill.

I’m not saying this is the fate of every treadmill, but it is probably what happens to most of them. And to this I add the somewhat obvious comment of how much cheaper it would have been to just go outside and walk a bit, instead of buying the exercise equipment. No, I didn’t buy a treadmill. And I don’t know what I bought to equal the amount of credit card debt I have, but it was probably just random crap.

Since starting on this minimalist journey, I have begun looking into the best ways to pay off debt, and I recommend Ready for Zero. It’s a free site and pretty easy to use. This Christmas, I gave myself the gift of cancelling my highest interest credit card. Now I only have one, and the interest is pretty low. No, I didn’t totally pay off the other one; I just cancelled it so I can never use it again. And I have been able to decrease the debt by about half in a few months.

In the past, I’ve given into the quick fix of a bad mood, bad day, bad whatever with buying something online. Because I was only using one card for my online purchases, I could see how much I was spending a month. It was pretty scary. And I have to admit that sometimes I give in to this behavior still, but will just add items to my cart and then turn off the computer. Almost always, by the next day, I will decide that I don’t really need the item and delete it. In fact, I just checked, and I have not ordered a single thing online in the month of January!

So where is all this rambling going? I know I had a point. Here it is: Never sacrifice your future happiness for a short-term burst in happiness.