Quarantine Report #1

I had some stories I was going to write-up a couple of weeks ago. And then the world imploded and it seemed weird to write about events that happened before everything shut down. But I didn’t have anything to say about life in the Pandemic. So I wrote nothing. Seems time to rectify that, so here we go.

Here is a list of every fun thing my incredibly privileged sons could be doing or learning to do during their shelter-in-place at our house:

  • reading
  • writing
  • playing video games
  • working logic puzzles
  • throwing pottery on a wheel
  • slab or coil building pottery
  • firing a kiln: electric, gas, or wood
  • stained glass
  • glass fusing
  • bottle slumping
  • bottle cutting
  • jewelry making
  • painting
  • quilting
  • sewing
  • machine embroidering
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • felting
  • Kumohimo braiding
  • 3D printing
  • coding (computer programming)
  • archery
  • basketball
  • four square
  • treadmill
  • stationary bike
  • laying outside in a hammock
  • gardening
  • cooking
  • baking
  • playing with the dog
  • playing the cello
  • playing the keyboard
  • working jigsaw puzzles
  • playing board games (we have hundreds!)

Here is a list of everything they are actually doing:

  • playing Terraria together on the ps-4
  • playing video games on the laptop or Kindle Fire or cellphone
  • watching Netflix

The eleven year old is also, when pressed to get off screens, sometimes building some KiwiCo kits he got in the mail over the last few months. And playing with the dog more than usual and helping bake some. And the sixteen year old is fond of sleeping. But that’s it.

So forget all your free virtual tours of museums and other cool stuff that everyone is sharing online. My kids have more variety available to them than I would wager any other people on the planet, and they. Won’t. Take. It.

I hope someday they look back and see how unique their existence was. And how much they squandered the possibilities. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to that 2000-piece puzzle I’ve been working mostly on my own. Then I’ll make some more progress on the quilt. And the book I’m reading. Oh, and that bottle of wine. 😉

Hal Learns Mimi’s Storied Past

Hal and I were sitting in the front pew next to each other, each with an ashen cross on our foreheads. The rest of the two congregations that had joined together for Ash Wednesday were lined up the center aisle, progressing forward for the Imposition of Ashes.

We saw someone he knows best from outside of church in the line and I asked if he had noticed her. He had. “Does she go to that church?” he asked, motioning to the other pastor.

I laughed and said that no, she went to ours but she hadn’t been on Sundays that much lately (and when she is there, he’s usually too busy running around to notice her anyway).

“She doesn’t come on Sunday but came on Ash Wednesday?!

“Everyone has their own lives and their own complications. People stop coming to church regularly for different reasons. Sometimes they have scheduling conflicts or they fall out of the habit or they are struggling with something. Mimi stopped going to church for years because she was mad at the church.”

I realized right after the words were out of my mouth that I had stepped into dangerous territory.

“Why was she mad at the church?”

“Well, it had to do with Grandpa.”

Hal, not understanding the difference between a local church and the greater denominational structure that I was referring to, looked up at me shocked.

“Mimi used to go to Grandpa’s church?!”

“Um, well, yes. You know they were married, right?”

“What?!! I didn’t know that!”

“They are my mom and dad!” I responded, equally surprised but also amused.

“I know that, but I didn’t know they were married.”

“Ok, so do you know that Poppy and Grandma were married?” I asked, referring to my husband’s parents.

“Yes,” he responded. No recognition was in his voice on the lack of symmetry in his understanding of his grandparents. To be clear, I don’t think the distinction in his mind was that they had perhaps been an unmarried couple. He had just never put together that my parents must have been together at some point in the past. Yet he somehow came to that conclusion for the other set. It was strange and quite humorous.

“Well Mimi and Grandpa divorced when I was 5 and Mimi stopped going to church for a long time. She started going back when Papa…” I paused as a whole flood of emotions washed over me.

My mom started going back to church when my step-dad was diagnosed with cancer. He announced one day that they were going to church and she said ok and off they went, becoming weekly attendees and involved congregants in almost no time. The church-involved Mimi is the only Mimi Hal knows.

But Papa Bill…Hal doesn’t know him at all. He died three years before Hal was born. By the time Hal was born, my mom had fallen in love again and moved out of my childhood home. Hal knew none of that.

“Well,” I picked up again. “Mimi remarried after the divorce. She was married to Papa Bill. You don’t know him because he died from cancer before you were born.”

He nodded quietly. That was a lot of information to absorb suddenly like that. Not only had Mimi been married to Grandpa, but she had been married to someone else before the only man that Hal has ever thought of as Mimi’s husband.

We don’t make it to Ash Wednesday service every year. We try to make it a priority but it doesn’t always work out. Hal doesn’t recall having ever attended before, although I know he has. I can’t help but think that this one was memorable enough to be retained.

Roger That

As we walked toward the Start Line for the Cowtown 5K in Fort Worth, TX, our eleven-year-old son Hal asked his dad a question.

“What is Captain America’s first name?”

“His name is Steve. Steve Rogers.”

“Oh.” There was a slight pause. “Ok, then is Will Mr. Rogers’ first name?”

“No,” my husband said with a laugh. “Mr. Rogers’ first name was Fred.”

Another pause was followed by an exasperated huff and the final question. The one he apparently should have led with: “Then who is Will Rogers?”

“He was a cowboy humorist and newspaper columnist from Oklahoma,” we said.

And I suddenly understood where his questions were coming from. We were passing in front of the Will Rogers Memorial building and Hal was trying to put together who that was.

I’m impressed that he thought of two different famous Rogers folks and amused that he thought someone might name a building after Captain America. Then again, why not?

 

Date Planner

This draft was sitting in my draft folder (with hundreds of others, to be honest). The date was June 1st of last year. I was obviously getting something off my chest and/or trying to just capture the details because all 150+ words were crammed together in one paragraph. I had forgotten all about the details of this particular Saturday morning but boy did it all come rushing back as I read it! That’s not always the case when I look back at drafts; for example, no clue what the one around the same time period that only said “football pract” was going to be about (other than, well, football practice). At any rate, here we go, with better formatting and a little more detail…

 

Teenage boys are.

I mean.

I can’t even.

He tells us that he and his girlfriend want to go on a date. He tells us that several days ago. No problem so far.

Last night, he said she couldn’t do lunch or dinner so it would be breakfast today. But as of midnight, he couldn’t tell us what time or where and seemed wholly unconcerned as to whether his desire for a ride would negatively impact any plans of any of the drivers in the house. He was even put out that I interrupted his PS4 game to ask questions.

His grand plan was to wake up early (after staying up late), even though he knows he sleeps through his alarm, and see what her response was. When I woke him up at 8:45, wondering what his definition of “early” was or exactly how late he though breakfast could start, he checked his phone and saw she had suggested 8:30. Oops. Wonder what she was thinking as she sat there waiting for a reply.

Now the plan is 9:30 and he just got out of the shower. He actually wanted me to drop him off at 9:30, come home, then drive back into town, and pick him up at 10:15. I mean, seriously.

First, this date is only 45 minutes long? You guys like each other that much?

Second, it takes 15 minutes to drive home and another 15 to drive back in. That leaves me 15 minutes to do…what exactly? And it puts me spending an hour on the road to support this 45 minute date. I don’t think so!

I told him I wasn’t going to do that so they made plans to extend the date to a more reasonable duration. I don’t recall now, months later, what they added to the plan or even whether I was both the dropper-off and picker-up or whether my husband took one leg of the obligation.

I just remember being amazed that he 1) was so cavalier about coordinating the event and 2) unconcerned about his impact on whoever had to drive him. He and his girlfriend didn’t contact each other much over the summer and parted ways just before school started back. I think she did the breaking up because she had changed schools and they weren’t likely to see each other much.

He seemed to be ok with that because he really didn’t have time for a girlfriend (his words). He wanted to focus on football and hanging out with his friends and playing video games. Fast forward six months… I’ve heard rumor of a girl he’s interested in but his life has mostly revolved around those things he mentioned back then. Main difference now is that he’s driving. So if he botches a date again, it doesn’t affect me.

Nipple Ring

It had been a long day, as so many of them seem to be. I had happily crawled into bed at the end of it and snuggled into my pillows. Sleep was going well but I can only assume I was too close to a sleep stage transition when my husband suddenly asked, “Hello?”

My back was to him so I rolled just enough to look over my shoulder. I saw him pulling the phone from his face so I glanced at the screen: Daryl. He pulled the phone back to his ear, repeated his question, then looked at the screen again. The call had just ended.

“What’s going on?” I asked. Silly question since he obviously had gotten no answer, but it was two in the morning and I don’t function well at that hour.

“I don’t know. He didn’t say anything.”

“Is he home?”

“I don’t know but I’m going to go check now.”

Daryl had spent the evening watching the NBA All-Star basketball game over at his sister’s place. He wasn’t home by the time we went to bed. I started to wonder if he had fallen asleep there. Or had he been in a wreck on his way home?

My husband returned from his sojourn down the hall and told me that he was home and asleep in his bed. He shrugged it off and went back to sleep. I, as I am prone to do after such events, lay awake for hours waiting for sleep to reclaim me.

My alarm woke me soon after I fell back asleep. I dutifully got up and we went to the gym. The boys didn’t have school that day so we were letting them sleep. As I prepared to leave for work, I paused at Daryl’s door. I don’t know if it was honest curiosity or a desire to pay him back, but I went inside.

“Daryl,” I said, shaking him gently. “I’m going to work, honey. Where’s your phone?”

He had just been groggily stretching until I asked him about the phone. He pushed his torso up off the bed and looked around confused. As he stretched up higher and looked down, I saw it. His phone was face-up under his bare chest.

“That’s it! Daryl! You nipple-dialed your dad in the middle of the night! It woke both of us up! It took me hours to go back to sleep.”

He didn’t respond.

“The least you could do is say Sorrrryyy Mooooomm.” I said the “sorry mom” in an exaggerated put-out-teenager voice. He repeated the words in exactly the same tone. Maybe my version wasn’t so exaggerated after all.

“Thank you,” I said, picking up the phone, now at 11% battery because it had spent the night under his chest instead of on his charger. As I plugged it in for him, I confirmed what time he needed to be at Destination Imagination practice. And then I told his dad to make sure he was awake when the time came.

Because, you see, it’s always mom’s job to take care of the kids. Even if the kids wreck her sleep. You take care of them. And then you take care of yourself by increasing your caffeine intake for the day. And then you cross your fingers and say a little prayer before trying again for a good night’s sleep at the next opportunity.

Underwear Where?

It was time for Hal to get ready for school. I woke him up a few minutes later than normal and told him to get moving. Then I took care of a few things in the kitchen and returned to his room. Opening the door, I saw him still in his bed, petting the dog.

“Hal, you really need to get up and take your shower!”

“Okaay!” he said as he climbed past the dog.

I then brushed my teeth and gathered my clothes to prepare for my own shower. He still hadn’t left his room. This time when I opened his door, he was standing on the edge of his bed, leaning over the rail of the top bunk.

“Hal! Come on!”

“I am!!”

“No you are not. The shower is not on the top bunk! What are you doing?”

“I’m getting some underwear!”

Do what? I watched as he slowly moved the foot of a very large stuffed dog and picked up a pair of clean underwear. I glanced over at his dresser and back to the bed.

“Do you mean to say you are putting your laundry up there on the top bunk instead of in your drawers?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?”

I can’t even. Now I know why the hamper has been returned so promptly to the laundry room every weekend. I thought he was just throwing the clothes into the drawers without folding them. I hoped he at least sorted them into the right drawers, but I was guessing he just tossed them all mish-mashed into the most empty one. But, no. He can’t even be bothered with that. He’s literally just lifting the hamper over his head and dumping them onto the top bunk. Oh, and positioning the stuffed animal to hide the evidence. Wow.

How Flat is Flat?

Daryl (yes, we are going to talk about Daryl again) was late coming home from Destination Imagination practice Saturday. I didn’t think too much about it until our friends showed up to play Charterstone, which is a really fun legacy board game (legacy means the rules change and the story builds each time you play). It’s a big deal and we always have a blast.

Practice was over at 12:30 and it was now almost 3:00, so I gave him a call. He was at a store with his friend Jerry. We talked for a minute and he selected 5:00 as the time that he would either be home or call me to check in.

Sometime shortly before 5:00, his truck rolled into the driveway. To my surprise, Jerry was sitting next to him. Ok, I thought. I guess he’s ok with his friend seeing this ‘nerdfest’ we have going on…

Only, they didn’t come in the house. The poor dog was going nuts with anticipation. I asked the people who could see out the window what they were doing. “They’re walking around the truck looking at it” was what I got back.

I’d finally had enough of the dog so I walked to the front door to let her out. The boys were not visible at all; but when she streaked across the driveway and around the truck, Daryl’s head popped up in surprise. I had already shut the front door so he was looking around like he couldn’t figure out where she had come from.

It looked like they were checking out the front passenger-side tire. I wondered why they weren’t coming in for help, but figured they eventually would. I sat back down at the game and when he later tried to quickly let the dog back in without coming in himself, I called out to him. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“Nothing. I just need to take Jerry home.”

“You aren’t going to come in and say hi?”

“No, we’re running late. We gotta go!”

“What were you doing with your tire?”

“Oh, I just needed to put some air in it.”

“Did you use a tire gauge?” my husband asked at the same time I said, “You know every gas station in town has an air pump, right?”

No, he didn’t know that he could have stopped at a gas station instead of driving out of town to our house. And, no, he didn’t have a tire gauge. He seemed flustered that he had driven home when he didn’t have to, although he soon showed that he really did, actually, need to come home. As he had no clue how much air was enough.

One of our friends stopped pouring his beer to go get Daryl one of the several tire gauges in his car. I asked Daryl if he knew how to use it. He claimed he didn’t need to use it because, and I quote, “we pushed on the tire – it’s good.”

With that, I followed him out to the truck and his waiting friend – much to his embarrassment, I’m assuming, since he asked me why I was wearing my Christmas leggings on our way out there. When I got to the truck, I showed him how to read the appropriate tire pressure inside his driver’s door. I then walked around to the passenger side, where I could see the tire sagging appreciably on the driveway.

“Daryl! There is not enough air in that tire – just look at it!”

What ensued next was some typical teenage back-and-forth on which boy had claimed what while they had tried to use the air compressor on the tire. There was so little air in it that the tire gauge didn’t actually budge. Daryl still tried to tell me it was fine.

I told him that if he drove off on that tire, there would be six very unhappy adults in there that would have to stop playing their game while his dad came to walk him through changing his tire on the side of the road. “Do. Not. Drive off, unless you can get it to 35psi.”

With that, I went back inside. My husband asked if I had checked the tire for damage. I said, “No. You should go do that. Being the tire guy and everything.”

With great reluctance, he did, and then returned soon after to inform me there was a nail and Daryl would be taking our other truck in order to get Jerry home. About then, I saw the truck go tearing off the property like a bat outta hell.

“Daryl! Don’t drive that fast! What do you think you’re doing?”

“You know he can’t hear you, right?” everyone asked.

“He drives like that all the time,” my husband said.

“Not while I’m with him!” I said, which my husband answered with a don’t-be-so-stupid patronizing look.

Why are our kids so good at pointing out all the things we’ve failed to teach them yet? I hadn’t thought about what Daryl would do if he got a flat tire. I hadn’t thought to share with him the neighbor’s caution to his older sister about driving fast down our road. I hadn’t told him that common courtesy involved bringing his guest into the house to say hello to us.

There’s just so much to teach. And no matter how hard you try, you’ll never get it all. You just have to hope that some combination of luck, common sense, and maybe the intervention of others with make up the difference.