Pandemic Slices of Life

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#SOL20: March 31st

          I had high hopes that this year I'd slice every day.  But, here's a secret about me.  I don't like to write and share thoughts that are completely deep and dark and scary.  I like to share stories that have at least a glimmer of hope, even in mostly bad situations.

          Pandemics, it turns out, cloud my mind and hide the glimmer.

          I'm sad for the front line workers, like my sister, who have to put their lives on the line.

          I'm sad for my students and coworkers, whose worlds are so completely disrupted.

          I'm sad for my children, who've had events cancelled that they've been planning for all year.

          I'm nervous and anxious and fearful and sad for the world.

          And yet...

          I'm thankful for the days that I did slice, because on those days, I was able to put my fears and anxiety aside and share things that helped me feel gratitude and hope and joy in the middle of all the fear.  I'm thankful that slicing helped me see the glimmer, even if it wasn't the full 31 days of March.  

          See you next year.  In the meantime, keep washing those hands.

New Pajamas

#SOL20: March 28th

Some days I put on new pajamas.  Some days I don't.

Today is an old pajama day.


LEGO Injury

Monday, March 23, 2020

#SOL20: March 23rd

          My daughter had a bandaid on her foot.  

          "What's that on your foot?  Why do you need a bandaid?"

          "Oh, that's from that LEGO I stepped on.  It's pretty bad.  It was one of those hinge pieces.  I didn't think it would hurt that much, but it really did."  My daughter said this as she walked into the front room.

          "What are you doing now?" I asked.

          "Playing with my LEGOs," she replied.

           I wanted to tell her that there is no such thing as LEGOs, just LEGO bricks, but I knew she wouldn't appreciate the correction.  I just found it funny that she was so quick to return to something that hurt her so bad.  I suppose when you love something, you find a way.  Even if it's a LEGO brick!


The Birthday Party that Never Happened

Sunday, March 22, 2020

#SOL20: March 22nd

          There she was, standing next to me.  Her eyes were filled with tears, but she wasn't saying anything.  My 9 year old daughter was just staring, ready to break down.

          "Bars and restaurants are closed?  I just heard Daddy say that!  That means I'm not having my party."  He did just say that on the phone to a friend.  Clearly, she hears everything.

          Here we go... again.  That was the 3rd party we cancelled, but never actually planned.  She's turning 10 next Tuesday, and has been talking about her birthday for months.  First, she wanted a pool party.  When she announced that back in January, I had heard about the coronavirus, so I waited to book it.  I kept waiting and waiting, and the virus kept spreading and spreading.  I finally told her that the pool wasn't available that day.  The idea of putting kids into a pool just wasn't a risk I wanted to take.

          How about mini golf?  Now that March was here, we had to make a decision.  Mini golf clubs could be wiped down.  How about that?  Then, cases started happening in Chicago.  I had to tell her that I just couldn't book a birthday party right now.  No one would come.  We can wait until the summer, I said.  Your friends won't mind waiting, I said.  She cried and cried.  I was too upset to cry.

          I found out that the frozen yogurt place near us would let us have a small gathering with no big planning involved.  Froyo with just close family?  Perhaps that we could do.  I told her that we could invite just her aunts and cousins for a small gathering.  That made her feel better.  In my mind, I could wipe down the froyo machine handles, bring sanitizer, and we could even eat it outside in their courtyard.  Yet, I sat on the news.  I couldn't bring myself to even making the invitation, because in my heart I knew it wouldn't happen.  

          That day with tears in her eyes, they closed restaurants and bars.  That day, the last ditch effort to make her 10th birthday even a tiny bit of a celebration came tumbling down.  I reassured her that we would still celebrate her birthday, even if it was just the 4 of us.  I didn't tell her that I already have her birthday presents stashed in my closet, just in case the stores close down, too.  Good thing I do, because she wanted to go to the American Girl Store on her actual birthday.  They closed that day, too.

          A few days later, it was confirmed by text.

          Here I am, standing in my kitchen, watching a few robins fly around the yard.  They are free to go wherever they want, totally oblivious to the lockdown the rest of our state is experiencing.  Today is the day that we had set aside for those birthday parties that were never destined to happen.  I poured her a glass of milk, and walked out of the kitchen.  I was afraid that she'd see my eyes filled with tears.  She seems to have no idea that today should have been her party.  Honestly, I wonder if she even knows what day it is.  That's what life is like in lockdown, I guess.  You don't even realize the things you miss when the days blend together.  Perhaps even the big things.

          We have 2 days until she turns 10.  I have a feeling she won't be so oblivious that day.  I hope she someday realizes that on her 10th birthday, she helped save people's lives instead of swimming, mini golfing, or eating froyo.

Monochromatic LEGO Challenge

Friday, March 20, 2020

#SOL20: March 20th

            There we were, sorting LEGO bricks into colors.  Today's challenge was to build something in all one color, a monochromatic build.  My daughter was super excited, and I had no idea whatsoever what I could build.  I made a pile of red for her, and green for me.  She wasn't sure what she was going to make, but seemed confident.  I declared, "I'm building a house."  I mean, that's super creative.  I started sorting bricks into color categories for us.

          I sorted for awhile, and then changed my pile from light green to dark green.  

          She changed her mind from red to yellow, because we don't have an all red mini figure.  I started making her a pile of yellow.

         I changed my mind from green to white.  We apparently have a lot of white.

         At this point, I had no reason not to start building my generically boring house.  She had a whole space ship thing going, and I started putting down the bricks to make my house.  My boring, old house.  

         As we were building, Keira started talking about how her life is so much better with LEGO in it.  She said that it made her so creative, and that she didn't know what she would do without LEGO.  Listening to her, I realized that I needed to be a bit more creative myself.  I looked down at the house that I was building, and thought to myself, "What could this white house be?"

          An igloo...  
          A clean house... 
          A hand sanitizer factory!!!

          That was it.  Here, in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, what the world needs is a hand sanitizer factory!  I built a pump and found a little white cabinet piece to hold imaginary Clorox wipes, too.  My daughter, when I announced my improved concept, found me an all white mini figure and helped me build the hand sanitizer pump that is on the roof.  Apparently, she didn't like my original design.  (She was right, by the way.  Her's is better.)

          With that, here is our hand sanitizer factory and her banana space ship!

Sidenote:  My son skipped this challenge so that he could build a rollercoaster on the computer.  I wasn't thrilled with his decision at the time.  He then told me that his design was the best he's ever made by himself, and that he couldn't stop watching it when he finished.  We all show our creativity in different ways.  :)


Mommy Class is in Session

Thursday, March 19, 2020

#SOL20: March 19th

          "Mom!  We are waiting for you!  School has started!!!"

          I walked upstairs to my son's room, and there they were, my smallest class on record.  It's a multi-age class of 3, spanning from kindergarten to 5th grade.  My niece and my own two kids had now formed a class.  They had set up their own lap desks, and were sitting in them, waiting for the teacher to arrive.  And here I was.


          We started with a LEGO challenge, based on a LEGO Quarantine Challenge group we are in on Facebook.  The challenge was to make a build from 2070, and so off they went.  My niece built a dog house, my son built a futuristic car show, and my daughter built a scene where robots took over the world.  We shared our builds in "morning meeting" and then headed to lunch.  (Yep, we were behind schedule a bit.)


          After lunch, we had writing.  I asked the kids to name all the types of writing that they know, and we made a web on the best chart paper I could find.  When we were done listing genres, I passed out some notebooks I had around the house with a variety of paper choice, and told them that they got to pick what to write about and which type of writing to use.  I, of course, blogged my slice of life from yesterday, because teachers are writers, too.  We wrote for 15 minutes, and then they each got to share out their favorite piece.  I had dug in my garage for my Yoda self assessment of free choice writing, and they self assessed their ability to have an idea and write with volume.  Sadly, I only got a 2 for volume.  I was not writing the whole time.  (They saw me stop and take a few pictures.)

          For math, we read Color Farm by Lois Ehlert, which is about animals made of shapes.  They were all challenged to draw an animal using just shapes on their iPads, and then they went onto various math apps to practice skills.  By reading Color Farm, now my niece would have a book to add to her reading basket, too.


          For reading, we just did read to self.  No lesson today, just setting up workshop.  We talked about picking a book we wanted to read, and finding personal space where we could read for 15 minutes straight.  I told them that kindergartners often read out loud, so they needed to take charge and find a spot that avoided that if it bothered them, and they all read.  I did, however, have to force my niece to take a hand washing break after she sneezed into her hand.  Ick.  I then pulled her into a reading conference and she read a book to me with some prompting, and then I sent her downstairs with her iPad to record herself reading while the other 2 finished their 15 minutes quietly.  At the end, I made a quick status of the class document and we recorded our reading for the day.

         For art, they wanted to color in their coloring books.  Go ahead!  Then they all started fighting.  That was a real joy.  I might have threatened to send them to the principal, which is ironic because in my real classroom I rarely ever did that.  But, tough times call for tough measures.

         To end the day, my daughter wanted to do a Model Magic clay challenge of an animal, and then she had us write in our journals about our learning for the day.  What a great idea!  So we did that.

          My son then did a virtual ballet class with his dance teacher, Mrs. Brenda.  He was using my computer, so that put a stop to my own productivity a bit.  

         This was Day 1 of Mommy School.  
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

My Own Reflections:
Teaching is hard.  We already know this.  But, teaching in a multiage classroom at home (with your own kids) without having the supplies that we are used to is a challenge, and I'm a teacher by trade.  I happen to have all my old classroom supplies stored in my garage, which are not easily accessible but they are there.  I was also trying to work from home while doing all of this, as the curriculum work I do still needs to get done.  Why am I saying all this?  My kids were SO excited for Mommy School, honestly because they NEED the routine of what they know.  For now, this is the new normal.  But, as moms and dads who are also tasked with working from home, it is hard to teach class with multiple levels and do what they need to do.  So, give some grace to the families that you serve, and give grace to yourself.  We'll get through this, one day at a time.  Just keep kids reading and writing and creating in the meantime.

Tylenol Shopping

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

#SOL20: March 18th

          I woke up in a panic.  That's how I wake up these days.  It's probably a combination between my body thinking that "my alarm didn't go off so I'm late to work" at the same moment that my brain remembers that I am indeed "in a stay at home quarantine of sorts because of a virus pandemic."  

           This morning, I reached for my phone and saw that news out of France is they think Tylenol is a better fever reliever for Covid-19 than ibuprofen.  Now, I am not a medical professional, nor do I know if they are scientifically correct, but I only have ibuprofen at my house.  Panic.  This is how my brain works.  So, in fear that there will now be a global run on Tylenol like there was on hand sanitizer and toilet paper, I got in the car before the kids woke up to hopefully get some Tylenol.

          I purposely went to Walts because I had heard that Target was allowing elderly customers time to shop for the first hour of the day.  To be respectful of that, I went to the closest grocery store to my house.  I got there and walked directly to the pharmacy aisle, not stopping for a cart, just on a mission to see if I could buy Tylenol for my family.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I had tears in my eyes when I saw the shelf had not only adult Tylenol, but also kids' Tylenol.  I know, this is probably an overly dramatic response to seeing fever reducers, but there I was.  I'm pandemic crazy.

          I decided to get a cart and just take a spin around the store really quick, because once I returned home I planned on staying there from now until the end of time.  Well, that or whenever this Coronavirus thing calms down.  My sister, who works at a hospital and was currently at work, wanted some canned veggies, so that is where I headed.  There I was, filling my cart with canned veggies, my 1 pack of toilet paper as allowed, and some cookies to bake with the kids.  I figured if we baked cookies, they might not realize that they are locked inside our house.  Here's hoping.  

          It's then that I noticed something quite alarming.  I was there, stocking up on Tylenol and canned goods, because school had been cancelled.  We are all charged with flattening the curve, and are staying at home as much as humanly possible, to protect the elderly and our health care workers.  I was at Walts throwing canned goods in a cart for my sister, who is on the front lines of this every day.  But, as I started to look around the store, I noticed something quite alarming.  The worker who was kneeling on the ground, restocking shelves, was elderly.  The worker cleaning and mopping was elderly.  The worker stocking the produce section was elderly.  The lady checking my items out was elderly.  The lady bagging my groceries was an elderly woman named Claudia who seemed surprised when I helped her with the heavier items.  There I was, staying at home to protect them, and here they were helping me.

          How can we make sure that our most vulnerable population is protected, if they still have to go to work the stock the shelves for us?

          I sat in my car and cried a little, before I went home and tried to pretend that it is normal to lock ourselves in our house.  But, I have Tylenol.

Psychotic Animatronics

Monday, March 16, 2020

#SOL20: March 16th

          A half day Institute Day was ahead of me.  I got out of my car on this last day of school before the IL shutdown, and I saw a boy ahead of me with a book bag on.  No one else was around, yet he was running towards the front door of school.  Panic flooded my mind, thinking this boy and his family had no idea that school was cancelled.  I quickened my step to catch up with him, even though I was afraid that I was going to have to tell a boy I didn't know about a global pandemic.  

          "Hey there!  We don't have school today.  Can I help you?"

          "Yeah, I know.  My dad told me to come to school anyway to get my things."

          I brought him into the office, had him sit down, and then went into a staff meeting to get his teacher.  I figured that in times of great uncertainty, seeing your teacher is always one way to make things better.  The building was getting briefed on how to plan for at home learning, yet she jumped right up to see her student.  Teachers really do put kids first, always.  Especially this teacher.

          She discovered that he wanted the book he was reading from class.  She went back into the meeting, and he and I walked up to his classroom.  The whole way there he talked about his book, which happened to be from the Five Nights at Freddy's series.  Now, it was not a lie when I told him that I knew nothing about the series.  To be honest, I thought it was a video game or something.  But he went on and on and on about the characters, and the plot, and his favorite things about it.  He told me that it was about these animatronics who were from a pizza place.  He told me he planned to read the whole series.  When we got to his classroom he walked right to his desk, found his book, and then turned back towards the door.

          "Is that all you needed?  Do you need anything else?" I asked gently.  The classroom seemed way too empty for a Monday morning, and honestly I worry when he will be returning.  This was his last chance to make sure he had all his things.

           "Yep.  I'm ready.  I just needed my book."

          "Ok, so this book must be pretty good if you wanted to have it.  Tell me one reason why I should read it."  

          "They are psychotic animatronics.  They turned that way because they were locked inside the pizza place for too long."

          I turned to him, and thought how oddly coincidental that reason was on the eve of a quarantine as schools close for the next 3 weeks.  Here we go, about to get locked inside of our homes, hopefully not destined to become psychotic animatronics.  I don't think I will ever read that book, but I certainly will always remember this young reader as we prepared for time away from school.  

Lasagna Ban

Sunday, March 15, 2020

#SOL20: March 15th

          There I was, shopping at Target, hoping that no one thought I was panic buying.  Sure, I was buying what I normally buy.  My list was relatively normal.
Mac and Cheese
hand sanitizer (still none on the shelves)
frozen vegetables

         As I was putting items in the cart, perhaps buying 2 items instead of just 1, in my mind I was preparing for filling a pantry that my house does not have.  I don't really have anywhere to put extra food, so I felt a bit panic shopping-y.  But, outwardly I was not screaming or exhibiting mass hysteria, and I was still just pushing the cart on my weekly trip to the store.

          Fast forward 2 days, and I went to Target again.  This time, I guess I didn't really need to go.  I just felt compelled to go, and my kids had their last dance class before those were closed, too. Schools had just closed the day before, and I was curious how my Target was holding up.  Friends had been reporting that there were lines around the store at Cosco and Sam's Club, with no toilet paper and paper towels in sight.  I was curious how my Target was, so I went in.  It was like I was checking in on a close friend.

         It was a weird social experiment.  I grabbed a cart and picked up a few things here and there, but I was mainly looking to see what wasn't there.  What did I forget to buy that others seemed to know was needed?  There weren't many surprises.  The canned goods aisle was pretty empty, but it was the pasta aisle that had me in shock.  2 days before, this aisle seemed untouched.  Now, it was EMPTY.  All the sauces, except for a random Alfredo sauce, were gone.  I almost felt bad for the few left behind.  In the distance, I did see some red boxes on the top shelf.  I kept walking down the aisle and made a not entirely shocking discovery about society.  Lasagna noodles. Based on the only pasta left, it could be inferred that there will no lasagna making during this time of COVID-19 crisis.  

          I'll take my community's Lasagna Ban as a sign that social gatherings are being restricted.  Lasagna, after all, is a party food.  But, if we all wait it out in our homes with social distancing in place, I'm sure there will be times of lasagna again.   It's all the hope I can muster in this crazy, odd time of global pandemic. 


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

#SOL20: March 10th

          I accidentally skipped slicing Sunday.  I didn't even realize it until Monday.  When I sat down to blog Monday, all I could think about was coronavirus.  So, I closed my computer and didn't write again.  Now it's Tuesday, and I almost did the same thing.

          Here I am, pushing through my desire to skip slicing because I don't want to write about fear.  Yet, somehow, it's all that creeps into my head when I go to type.  Somehow, this post has turned into what I didn't want it to become.



          Toilet Paper?

          Burdened hospitals.


          School closures.

          11 cases in Illinois.

          But I sliced anyway.  Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to focus on more than just the unknown and impending. Maybe the trick will be to blog before I check social media.  It's hard when your computer is your news source AND your access to your blog.  

Dentist Approved

Saturday, March 7, 2020

#SOL20: March 7th

          We were driving in the car, and I was half listening to the radio.  From the back seat, my son yelled, "Well, that's weird!!!"

          "Did I hear that right?  Is is National Oreo Day?" I asked.  

          "Yeah, but it is also National Dentist Day.  They just said that."

          "So, it's National Oreo Day AND National Dentist Day?  That just makes no sense.  No sense at all."  My daughter was perplexed.

          "OK, well when you eat your Oreos at lunch, celebrate National Oreo Day."

           "I think they made these 2 days the same on purpose," my daughter declared from the back seat.  "I don't like Oreos anyway."

          "Well, I'm still going to eat mine."  Evan was not going to be swayed.  Perhaps mint Oreos are similar to his mint toothpaste... He's one smart cookie eater.

Open Letter to the Driver of the White SUV

Friday, March 6, 2020

#SOL20: March 6th

Open Letter to the Driver of the White SUV

Dear Driver,

          Thank you for your quick thinking this morning as you swerved into the next lane to avoid hitting my car.  As the line of cars slammed on the brakes under the overpass this morning, and I lurched forward suddenly to avoid rear ending the car in front of me, I saw you in my rearview.  As everything in my car flew off the seats and hit the floor of my car, I began to brace for your impact.  But it never happened!  You skillfully swerved into the open lane, preserving both yourself and I from impact.  Thank you, sir, for your attentiveness.  None of us expected that car to pull off to the side of the rode right as the overpass began and our vision was obscured, but you still were quick and attentive.  I thank you, my family thanks you, and I'm sure our insurance agents thank you as well.

          Have a great day!

Leah :)


Thursday, March 5, 2020

#SOL20: March 5th

          There he was, sitting in my backyard like a statue.  Frost still covering the grass, with the sun just about to rise.  He sat there, completely still, with his bushy tail in perfect squirrel formation.  Waiting, but for what...

          My mind flashed to Flora and Ulysses, my current read, and I wondered if he was Ulysses, a quite unusual squirrel from Kate DiCamillo's book.  And, as I wondered it, I felt like he stared at me.  Still not moving, just staring.  Just a squirrel and I, making eye contact as the day began.

         "Ulysses?" I wondered to myself.  And then I thought, "Dude, that book is fiction.  It's just a squirrel.  Get yourself some coffee."  So, I did.   And he was gone.   Now my backyard is just a backyard, not a fictional setting, and the cone that is for some reason still out there is just marks the area where I may have briefly met Ulysses.  Or not.

***I recreated the moment with an emoticon squirrel.  The real squirrel refused to be photographed. :)

Cookie Inspiration

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

#SOL20: March 4th

          I pour my cup of coffee, still rubbing my eyes and stretching my legs from the night before.  Once it's filled, I turn around and take a few short steps to the cookies.  Yep, that's right, the cookies.  The sun has barely risen, and I am about to have a little cookie breakfast.  

         I reach into the crinkly yellow package and pull out my dose of inspiration for today.  I AM A LEADER.  Well, ok.  If my cookie says so, I must be a leader.  I bite into my leadership blessing, and say a quick thanks to the Girl Scouts for both believing in my leadership abilities, AND for making these delicious Lemon-Ups.  Stopping at that cookie booth was a good decision.

          Let the day begin!

Empty Ballet Shoes

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

#SOL20: March 3rd

     Here I am, sitting at the dance studio, watching my kid watch other kids dance.  My son lives to dance.  Hip hop and modern and tap and jazz are in his soul.  An open studio and a piece of music is all he needs to take to the rhythm and dance.

    Except when he can't.

    A few weeks ago, he hurt himself jump roping.  It was at recess, and he said his leg hurt.  And it never stopped.  His leaps at dance turned into grimaces.  His routine dance positions now turned into abnormal tears.  What we thought was a sprain turned out to be a stress fracture.   Now here we are, waiting...

    Watching your friends dance as they prepare for recital and competition is frustrating.  Sitting in the corner, watching the girls when you are the only boy, and your part is missing from the dance.  The constant reminders from Mom about what you can't do, and the uncertainty about what you will be able to do, must drive him crazy.

    Then, I look into the studio, and I see him doing the Macarena.  Feet plastered to the ground, but hands going and big smile on his face.  Perhaps this is more painful for me than him.  I suddenly wonder if a stress fracture could possibly hurt less than a mom's worry.  

     For now, his empty dance shoes wait for him as I stare at him as he heals.

Own Goal

Monday, March 2, 2020

#SOL20: March 2nd


          It happened so fast, yet had been talked about for so long.  My daughter had been talking about it for months.  Her goal was to score a goal in indoor soccer.  She talked about it with certainty, like she knew it was a sure thing.  Yet, her team had only scored a single goal all season, and had yet to win a game.  But she was determined to score that goal.

          And she did.

          But... it was not documented on camera (except for the picture of the scoreboard above).  Mom fail!  I was so busy being a spectator that I forgot to be a documenting spectator.  I had to redeem myself, for my memories sake.

          Two weeks later, we were at her game again.  I didn't even bring my camera this time.  I figured  I'd catch some video footage this time on my phone.  I just periodically started recording here and there so that we'd have some video of her playing with her dad as coach.  Then, before I knew it, she scored again!  And this time it was on video!!!  I was so excited.

          When the game ended, I told her "I got your goal on video!!!  Way to go!"  She looked at me, with some irritation in her expression, and said, "It was more of an assist."  I was stumped.  An assist?  No, the person who kicked it in the goal was her!  I told her that, and then she said that the goalie actually knocked it in.

           "Ok, well no opposing teammate is ever going to WANT to assist a goal, so you don't need to give them that credit.  You got a goal!  Two this season!  Be proud!"

          It turns out, I was wrong and there is a name for it.  OWN GOAL.  The video shows it might just be one, too.  This soccer mom learned a new soccer fact.

A New Kindergarten Friend

Sunday, March 1, 2020

#SOL20: March 1st

          I walked into the kindergarten classroom during indoor recess, and watched the kids finish their game of freeze dance as I crossed the room.  I put my bookbag down against the wall, took off my jacket, and turned around.

          "Hi!  I'm J-A-S-M-I-N-E!"

          "Hi, Jasmine!  I'm Mrs. O'Donnell."

          "How did you know my name?"

          Fast forward 10 minutes, and I was being introduced to the class, and my new friend Jasmine raised her hand and shouted, "I know her!"

          I love kindergarteners.