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Chickens, Bearded Ladies and Other Hazards of Staying Put (More Notes from a Quarantine.)

While going out has it risks at the moment, staying home is not without its own hazards. Here are a few I’d be on the lookout for.

  1. My almost-eighteen year old announced he was growing a Corona-beard. Apparently, he isn’t the only one and WOULD THE CHILD WHO TOOK MY TWEEZERS TO REMOVE A SPLINTER PLEASE RETURN THEM? Check your chins, ladies. As my dear friend H. likes to say, unless you want to look like that character from the Greatest Showman, now is not the time to take your eye off the ball.
  2. The same almost-eighteen year old was supposed to be launching a senior exploration project which he now has to do from home. When an administrator on the grade-wide Zoom call suggested planting a vegetable garden as a project idea, my caffeine-addled brain jumped several giant leaps forward and it was all I could do not to unmute myself and scream, “CHICKEN COOP! CHICKEN COOP!” While I am definitely NOT the first person to decide that ordering chickens was the perfect antidote to the Great Quarantine, I do have to admit that I’ve wanted a coop since the minute we moved into this house and I took note of the narrow side garden and told M it would be perfect for a chicken run. (I may have also said a dog run, but that ship has sailed unless someone can find a breed of dog which lays eggs.) I currently have an online shopping cart packed full of delightful little chicks and while M has warned that it’s risky for someone like me (What? What?) to pass off my hopes and dreams to a second-semester senior, what could possibly go wrong?
  3. Speaking of grooming (beards), my wise middle-school daughter once told me that I didn’t have to worry about having a completely asymmetrical face because our eyebrows should be more like sisters than twins. After four weeks inside, my eyebrows don’t even look like cousins by marriage.
  4. While we are now in possession of toilet paper (some of it is single ply and dear Lord, why does everything have to be so hard?), who knows how long the current supply will last – which is why I am not abandoning the pile of clothing which I was willing to cut up for scraps and neither should you! (As for those summer pants I mentioned… Who hasn’t bought white jeans in a final (no return) summer sale? Who hasn’t bought those white jeans from a company she’s never tried before and hence has no idea how the sizing runs and oh, the sizing is European? No worries, I’ll just pick the number that makes me happiest. (I was apparently taking all sorts of risks before the Great Quarantine.) So when I tried the white jeans (again, why?) on last week and could not get them past my knees, I lay down on the bedroom floor and cried. Then I picked my sorry self up and told myself that this is not the time for weakness and threw the jeans into the emergency toilet paper pile.)
  5. To add insult to injury, next week Passover begins, as well as Easter and a whole host of festivals, none of which require a mother who has been home with her children for a month to soak her oven racks in the bathtub. (If the Hebrews knew that by leaving Egypt they’d have to start boiling their silverware and pretending to like almond macaroons, I think they’d have cut their losses and headed back.) Passover cleaning has always been a hazardous, cruel joke, but now it comes at the cruelest time (and yes, in the Cruelest Month) and if I have to take a bath with my oven racks I’m not going to make it.

I’d write more but I have to go and build a breeder in which we are supposed to be housing the chicks for a month – indoors – while their feathers grow enough to keep them warm outside. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll just let the little critters nest in my beard.

 

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Where to hide the eggs, cutting up your summer pants for toilet paper and other notes from the Great Quarantine.

I’ve shared some basic rules of quarantine, but what you really need to know is that to NOT do.

  1. Do not spray brunette dry shampoo all over your head right before you go on Zoom (or FB Live or any of it) without checking your ears. A certain someone did just that and turns out brown-tipped ears is not a good look for me.
  2. Do not pull out all the leftover dregs from your refrigerator at lunchtime and ask people to put back or toss what they don’t eat. Because when you check back in on the pile of food a few hours later it WILL STILL BE THERE but it will look even worse and you will lose your mind and yell at people for 30 minutes before you put it all away yourself.
  3. Do not call a family meeting because nobody will come and because we all are basically living one never-ending family meeting and oh-my-god why can’t I just pee alone?
  4. Do not expect a locked door and a PLEASE GIVE ME THIRTY MINUTES TO TAKE THIS CALL IN SILENCE to ever work on any child.
  5. If you were not a baker before you will not become one now because apparently even in a quarantine you still need to measure crap like baking soda and also, baking soda and baking powder are apparently NOT interchangeable. You’re welcome.
  6. Do not start limiting people’s egg intake unless you are fully prepared to hide the eggs. Also, do not hide the eggs without writing down where you hid them because you had no memory before this shitshow took off and you’ll have even less when it’s over.
  7. Do not freeze a banana in its skin. I do not have anything more to say about this. Just don’t do it.
  8. Do not Google ‘alternatives to toilet paper’ without giving yourself a good 20 minutes for a meltdown. (Because you will see crap like, “You can even cut up old, soft t-shirts into squares.” Let me tell you right now that if I have to start cutting t-shirts for the near-adult men in this house to start wiping their asses with, I am going to have to be institutionalized.)
  9. It’s important to exercise but do not go overboard and try squats and lunges for the first time in a decade because then you will not be able to climb stairs or even walk and this will slow you down when you are asked to fetch things like crayons and snacks and drinks and when a certain child calls you from his bathroom because he has run out of toilet paper, you consider telling him to cut up his t-shirt while he is sitting here.
  10. Do not spend 23 days in an elasticated waist and then choose this time to go through spring and summer pants with a button. I mean, you can do it, but it won’t be pretty because there is no way in hell those pants are going to fit you and you will just end up cutting up those pants for emergency toilet paper. This is especially true if those pants are white because that color sucks for pants and is just perfect for toilet paper. (Also, learn from my mistakes and STOP looking at your self from behind. Just stop. That ship has sailed.)

It’s been 30 minutes which means it’s time for me to eat something again. Buh-bye summer pants.

 

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Following a photographer around with a can of Lysol and other notes from the Great Quarantine.

A very nice man came to our house to take pictures of us. He wore a mask and gloves and kept a distance, for those if you who have already asked. For good measure, I followed him around with a can of Lysol which was all good and well until he turned around mid-stream and I almost blinded the poor guy. (It’s not like he needs his eyes, right?)

He did get to see me do several rounds of dishes, unload and reload the dishwasher, fold a load of towels, feed some people, clean up, then feed them again. I don’t want to talk about my outfit SNAFU. Let’s just say it’s good his lens didn’t get me or the pasta stuck to my fancy, shiny, special occasion leggings. (His arrival did force me to wash the other pair I may or may not have been wearing for a week straight.)

I was worried I would look like a an asshole in the article, which is often the case when you pretend to be functioning family for a stranger and even more-so, when this stranger is your first outside contact in a while.

I’ll let you all be the judge of that.

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The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020, the Silkwood Shower … and Other Notes From a Quarantine.

After almost three weeks of being virtually entirely reliant on food delivery, yesterday I woke up early and headed to the store. I went in search of toilet paper. I went in search of toilet paper and came home without toilet paper and I don’t need to tell any of you why that is. Apparently Americans are currently wiping their bums at an alarming rate, because you can’t find the stuff anywhere and I’m starting to get nervous and may or may not have just purchased some dodgy TP on Ebay.

I’m pretty sure I spent the entirety of my time in the store touching my face, so once I got home from the store, I promptly stripped down and reenacted the Silkwood shower scene, which for those of you too young to have any idea what I’m talking about is this:

Image result for silkwood shower

I had assumed yesterday’s shower was my big grooming effort for the week, but alas I spoke to a NYT reporter about life in quarantine/extreme social distancing (day 21!) and the paper sent over a photographer to photograph us in our natural habitat (from a distance) which mostly involved me unloading and then loading the dishwasher and washing my hands while singing nothing because there are no songs left for me to sing.

Let me just say this, and I hope you’re all ok with a bit of profanity: I’m pretty sure that when this article comes out I’m gonna look like an enormous asshole, which is all but impossible when a photographer comes into your home and you’re pretending that your own little corner of disfunction is anything but that. (When you’ve basically only been in the company of your own family for 21 days, interacting with a stranger is awkward. Also, try convincing your now-sixteen year old son that the best way to celebrate his big birthday is with the very family members who he’s been penned in with for three weeks, a random photographer and a tub of Clorox wipes.)

I’m also going to look like the kind of woman who thinks it’s ok to show up for a photo session in leggings and a dirty black sweatshirt that was clean hours ago but is now covered in all the food I’d been shoving into my mouth all day. In my defense, I thought I’d upped my game by removing the regular leggings I have been wearing nonstop for 21 days and put on the shiny pair I save for special occasions but I’m pretty sure there was a piece of pasta stuck to my butt the entire time, so shiny or not I’m still gonna look like an enormous asshole with penne on my backside.

I cannot say anything else about the pasta or all the rest of the rest of the food I consumed today because there is just so much of it and I couldn’t even tell you what I ate. Except for a chickpea pancake. I have decided that if I eat chickpea pancakes once a day I’ll be balancing out the meat consumption in the house and counteracting all the other crap I’m consuming. So far, being a smug vegan does not seem to be working. I feel revolting. All the time.

We awoke to snow here in New York, which seemed to taunt us for the first hours of the day. Every time I looked out the window, the snowflakes (which eventually turned to freezing rain, because why not?) seemed to whisper — oh, you want a snow day? oh, I’ll give you a snow day! In fact, I’ll give you about 21 days in a row. How about them apples?

I do not like them apples. I do not like them at all. I may have wanted a snow day but I didn’t want this. And now there is photographic evidence of this endless snow day… and plenty of it is of me unloading the dishwasher and of me washing my hands.

Which I’m about to go and do again, and while I’m at it, I suggest you do the same. Also, check your butt. I think you have some rice stuck to it. You can thank me later.

 

 

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I Don’t Want To Hear About Your Child Prodigy (Notes from a Quarantine).

We are finishing our third week of quarantine. To be specific, we have completed two weeks of quarantine and almost one week of Extreme Social Distancing, which is beginning to sound like a reality show nobody should go on ever again, for the rest of time.

Much of the world (although inexplicably, not all — I’m looking at you, dumb as hell spring breakers in Florida) is now in it with us. I don’t mind all the texts, emails and phone calls, asking for suggestions for how to manage a houseful of kids who seem to eat one long meal, which begins at breakfast and ends hours after I want to go to sleep.

What I don’t need to see is any more pictures of your child prodigies. Please. Under the best of circumstances, it’s annoying, and at worst, it sends parents like me into a what-the-hell-did-I-do-wrong tailspin. I don’t think you mean to annoy, at least I hope you don’t … but please, it’s just too much.

If your child has painted a Michelangelo on the ceiling of your living room, keep it to yourself.

If your child has sculpted the Thinker out of slime, silly putty, and the last drips of conditioner in the bottle, keep it to yourself.

If your child has cooked your entire family a four course meal and then (wait for it) correctly loaded the dishwasher, PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD AND HOLY keep it to yourself.

If you’re wondering what my own little prodigies are doing… it ain’t that. I live with six other people, five of whom like to puzzle. One, like his mother, does not. He does, however, have the habit of STEALING a single piece of the puzzle (in full view of his siblings and father) so that he can swoop in when all the hard work is done and finish the puzzle off. Personally, I think it’s a fabulous idea. I only like to get involved at the very end. But this time, the little prodigy (ok, he’s not so little and is currently eating half a cow for lunch) LOST THE LAST PIECE of the puzzle.

So, while you may be looking up at the Sistine Chapel, this is the kind of crap I have to look at.

See what I mean? For every time you post about your marvelous offpsring, I am moving a pair of shoes from the middle of the kitchen (why God, why?), peeling glue off the kitchen table (all this crafting may very well be the end of me) and scraping once-banished slimed off the sofa.

There are no masterpieces. There is only mess, work, and more work.

Be well everyone, and go wash your hands. If you need me, I’ll be loading the dishwasher

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Nora Ephron Was Right, About Everything. (Notes from a Quarantine.)

A word about my neck in this era of Zoom. In addition to the buckets of concealer I’ve had rushed to the house (also something called brightening cream, which begs the question: What exactly is it that I’m brightening?), I have also dug out a couple of turtleneck sweaters. If I knew how to wear a scarf, I’d dig out some of those too, but when I wear a scarf, I look less Parisian and more like I’ve had neck surgery and am walking around with a gaping floral bandage. But every time I facetime a friend or look into that dreaded  Zoom camera, it seems that my own neck has suddenly been replaced by my grandmother’s neck. I loved my grandmother. I miss my grandmother. But I do not want to see her neck staring back at me. Hence, the turtlenecks.

I tell you this because we here are in week three of The Grand Quarantine, more or less. We finished two weeks to emerge full force into — severe social distancing. Although some of our children had envisioned giant dance parties with everyone they’d ever met, after which they’d collapse into a heap on the couch and all sit in close proximity and eat popcorn out of the same bowl, that was not in the cards for us — or anyone, really. We can leave the house to take walks or runs, but not really with who are not members of our family (of whom we are all incredibly sick and tired), and if we do we must stand six feet apart. We can still do no otherwhere socializing and go nowhere that is not essential. But because this is week three for us and week one for just about everyone else, I have been fielding texts and calls from people asking me for advice.

I have been waiting forty-something years to be an expert in something and now I am an expert in quarantine. 

  1. So, my first piece of advice is go do something about your face and neck. You’ll be seeing a lot of it and you’ll thank me for it in three weeks when you try to buy makeup and turtlenecks and there is none left anywhere in the world because women are smart that way. (Also, if you’re a user, you’d be wise to get your hands on some of that root touch-up hair dye. Things are shitty enough already. Nobody needs to add insult to injury by having to go gray before she is ready.)
  2. Don’t go overboard on the cleaning. Take it from me. Sure, wipe a counter or two, but take it easy because two weeks is just the beginning and if you go nuts now you’ll run out of steam and in three weeks you’ll be living in a frat house and eating pizza off the floor with a family of fat roaches.  Slow and steady wins the race. 
  3. There is always room for self-improvement. Although I’ve slowed down in terms of wiping things down, I have decided that it’s time for me to make my bed. Previously, I was not a believer in bed-making. I like to think of myself as clean but not neat (although I have a rule about not having to shower on vacation — ask me about that another time). At the end of the day I am just fine collapsing on top of a tangled heap of blankets and sheets and fall asleep, knowing full well that M will come along and have to make the bed around me just to get some sheets for himself. (I’m nice that way.) This week I decided enough was enough. The kids are decamped into every corner of the house and I end up working in the bedroom. And really, there’s only so much staring at a messy bed even I can take. (Still, I’d rather look at a messy bed than my neck. Any day.) Next week I will be trying to fold my clothes. Until now, I have been more of a bundler. But enough about this…
  4. Be careful what you wish for. Several friends have told me they have put signs up in their kitchens instructing their family members to place all dirty cups and dishes in the dishwasher. I know better than to try any more signs in this family (fool me twice, kids — too many have been defaced and rewritten), but I did make a public service announcement: ALL DISHES MUST BE RINSED AND PLACE INSIDE DISHWASHER. EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY! Several hours later I opened the dishwasher and it looked like that game we played as kids – PLEASE DON’T TIP THE WAITER. – where you basically make a tower of wobbly dishes until the whole thing tips over. In the time in took me to empty and reload the mess of filthy, food-caked dishes I could have made my bed several times over
  5. Week two is harder than week one but week three is easier than week two. I’m not saying this is easy. People have started to lose their minds around here. Teenagers were not designed to spend this much time in the bosom of their families. Younger kids need normalcy and order and they don’t need six hours in a row of shitty television and potato chips for lunch (maybe that was just my house). Maybe it’s because everyone else is in this with us and we are no longer taunted by faces on Instagram eating food outside of their homes, and of friends and family drinking coffee made by people in aprons. Welcome, everyone. The water’s just fine. (Not really. Not at all.)

You’ll note I haven’t said a thing about hand washing. (Four or five weeks ago I bought a large pump of hand sanitizer for the first time ever. I’m not quite sure what came over me. My eldest walked by the pump and said, “Oh, so now we’re one of those families?” Apparently we are.) I’m still washing my hands and telling everyone else to do so. So, go — wash your hands or take a pump of sanitizer (not as good, I know, I know)… I’ll be here when you get back.

 

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A word about the snacking, and the things I miss. (Notes from a Quarantine.)

A few surprises.

  1. I miss my minivan. Sometimes I climb out of bed, where I am spending an inordinate amount of time, and gaze wistfully out the window at the giant family wagon parked on the street — empty and unused. I think of all the dings and scratches I got squeezing that thing into compact parking spaces (compact, my ass), all the times I wished I drove something zippier and sexier, like a Mini Cooper (humor me, please). I think of all the hours I spent cursing the van, as I drove mind-numbing amounts of carpool and hauled myself in and out with groceries nobody would help me bring into the house.
  2. I do not yet miss grocery shopping. Get back to me on that. Also, go wash your hands.
  3. I miss not being hungry. Before this, I was the kind of person who could skip lunch without knowing it. I’d even been known to say super annoying things like, “Those cookies look great, but I’m not hungry right now.” Now, all I am is hungry. I’m hungry when I wake up. I’m hungry when I go to bed. And it’s not for a lack of eating. All I’m doing is eating. I’m eating things I don’t even like (tortilla chips = cardboard, sue me.) I’m eating just about every hour on the hour and if you could see me (which you can’t because you can’t come over, nobody can), you’d know that I spend just about every minute of the day with a mouth full of food. Speaking of which, I’m hungry again and there is a vegan ice cream bar with my name on it (judge not, people). I’ll be right back. Go wash your hands while you’re waiting.
  4. I miss tights and boots and I’m worried that by the time I’m allowed outside again tights and boots season will be over and I’ll be launched into the season in which I’m forced to worry about the condition of my feet. I do not, not even for a minute, want to talk about the current state of my legs.
  5. I miss not worrying about people in my community who may be sick.
  6. I miss unloading the dishwasher and then not IMMEDIATELY loading it with all the filthy dishes which have accumulated in the sink. Also, the three thousand glasses my family seems to go through in one day. While I love a metal straw, I’m sort of wishing that we hadn’t jumped on that bandwagon until after the quarantine, because ask me how fun it is to clean 100 of those a day. Speaking of soap and water, go wash your hands. I’ll be here when you get back.
  7. I miss my friends. It turns out I am not an introvert after all. Or perhaps I’m just not the kind of person who can be trapped in a house with her children for 10 plus days and not lose her mind.
  8. I miss not having to see my face in a Zoom camera several times a day and getting the SHOCK of my life when I see the crypt-keeper staring back at me.

Image result for the cryptkeeper

Forget toilet paper and Lysol wipes. If this thing goes on forever, I’m hoarding concealer.

Mostly, I miss the sense of normalcy of life before we were all indoors. My kids are starting to look like the children from the Flowers in the Attic, and not in that adorable tow-headed (yet incest-y) way. The only winner has been our cat Lois, who hates to be home alone (also, not apparently much of an introvert) and thinks she has died and gone to homebody heaven.

Hoping you all have good, restful weekends, that you are doing a better job than I am of fighting off the snacking demons, and that you did not (as I may have) pull a child by the ponytail this week. #winning.

Now, go wash your hands.

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