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Posts Tagged ‘Worries’

Our state is taking small steps toward “opening up.” And I have gone straight from Worrying About How Long the Shelter In Place Order Will Last to Worrying About What “The New Normal” Will Look Like and How Will I Possibly Participate In It. After being told, for weeks, that staying at home is the safest possible choice… how can we all of sudden just start… LEAVING THE HOUSE?

UGH.

If only I felt like there was A Reasonable Plan. A plan based on actual scientific evidence. Instead of all of our leaders feeling immense pressure to Do Something and so throwing a handful of re-opening spaghetti against the metaphorical wall of our society and seeing what sticks.

I am SURE I am not the only one fretting about this shift towards “normal.” You’re worrying about it too, right?

Here are some specific things my brain-hamster is running frantically toward without actually moving an inch:

When is it reasonable to ask my housecleaner to come back? We are fortunate to have been able to continue to pay her while we’ve all been staying at home. But how long is she going to hold our spot? Is she working for her other clients again? Is it safe for her to spend hours in our possibly-germ-filled house? Is it possible that she could be bringing in germs from her family/other clients that could make our family – or the people we are necessarily in contact with (grocery store workers, my husband’s patients) – sick? Could I reasonably ask her to wear a mask while in our house? And would I need to provide her one (this would be ideal, of course)? And would that make her uncomfortable? Obviously I can continue cleaning our house myself; a housecleaner is not a necessity, it is a luxury. But I don’t know if we can/should continue to pay our housecleaner to stay home. At some point, doing so becomes less “this is an interim solution” and more “I am paying someone I don’t intend to see again.” Not that I don’t intend to see her again! Most of all, I don’t want to let my wonderful, beloved housecleaner go because I am being overly cautious about coronavirus. But… IS there such a thing as being overly cautious?

How will I feel about sending Carla to camp, if that happens, and, eventually, school? The camps Carla is enrolled in have not yet made a ruling about whether they will happen this summer. It seems unlikely, but… I guess it’s possible? When I think about the possibility of Carla going to camp, and then going to school in the fall, I am ripped violently in two directions. The one direction is MASSIVE RELIEF, because distance learning is not going great and because I know Carla needs in-person interaction with people who aren’t her parents and because I have not had more a shower’s length of time alone in two months. The other direction is CRUSHING FEAR because I don’t want her to get sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and get us sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and give it to my husband and have him a) unable to work or b) INFECT HIS PATIENTS OMG. I don’t want to constantly be worrying about her counselors/teachers and her friends and checking to see if she has a fever and perking up instantly if she sneezes.

Are we just going to be able to… GO PLACES now? Seeing as going to the grocery store – or even the PROSPECT of going to Costco – is still a dreaded activity, I can’t really imagine going to less essential businesses on purpose. For instance, it has become clear that we need to get Carla a real desk (her little child-size folding table has been working for now, but it’s not a good long-term solution – and I sense more distance learning in our future), but I am not finding anything reasonable online (the Pottery Barn Kids desks seem to be around EIGHT HUNDRED AMERICAN DOLLARS) and it would be so nice to go to IKEA and see some options in person. But… The very thought fills me with horror.

What is work going to be like for my husband? This is a very big complicated snarl of Unknown and it is filling us both with extreme anxiety. I will not get into the details but OMG.

And then, of course, is The Big Worry. What happens if/when (it’s when, right?) there is another spike?

It feels like the very best thing I, personally, can do to help is to continue to stay home, to continue to keep Carla home, to continue – at least for now – to pay my housecleaner to stay away. But someday it will be okay to do other things, right?

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I still feel like I’m on a ship. Sometimes the seas are smooth, othertimes the waters are choppy and nauseating. Still others, the storms pummel the briny deep into great stomach-churning, heart-jolting valleys and peaks and I’m not sure whether my body or mind will break first before I am swallowed by the foaming depths. Every day, the wide indifferent ocean stretches to the horizon on all sides and I don’t know how long it will take to reach the shore. I do not like boats or water or the thought of nameless shapes shifting in the void below. Small — but significant — comfort to know that you’re out here too, guiding your own craft through the murky waves.

What better way to deal with such a mental state than to talk about food? I mean, what’s more basic than food? We all need it, for survival, for comfort, for distraction, for pleasure.

Of course I’ve been craving carbs, and making rice and noodles and various nacho-like concoctions with abandon. Well, not abandon exactly because I am conscious that finding replacement carbs may not be as easy as I’d like.

The surprising things on my quarantine cravings list? Raw carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Perhaps I can attribute these desires to the gargantuan vats of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing I am using as a veggie dip. But I think it’s more the potential scarcity of fresh veggies – or, if not the veggies themselves, but my ability to access them. I bought two one-pound bags of carrots right as self-isolation was beginning, in the second week of March. And then on my most recent trip to the store, I bought a third. (I recognize that this must sound absurd to those whose families include more than three humans.) I think I am halfway through the second bag; I used a good half of the first bag to make mirepoix, which I froze for future soup-making.

It is just past breakfast time, now, and I am already thinking about a tidy plate of crunchy carrots and my last stalk of celery. Stranger than this, I find myself craving these veggies but then… not eating them. A self-rationing, I guess. Are these the last carrots I will be able to get? I clicked IMMEDIATELY and FORCEFULLY away from the one article I saw that said the food supply chain was not as sturdy as we all think it is, so I don’t know if it was a breathless panic piece or something more reasonable. But I am always worrying that something will be the last. My daughter is eating a rotation of PB&J sandwiches and Lunchables each day, and when I noticed we only have two of the latter left, I dutifully put it on the grocery list. But… when will I be able to get groceries? And, when I can, will there be any Lunchables?

Best not to think about the worst case scenario, and just move forward as planned. Add things to the list, assuming I can get them – if not immediately, then at some point.

Lettuce is also, for similar reasons, on my cravings list. Oh how I long to cut a quarter of a nice, crunchy, nutritionally vapid globe of iceberg lettuce and, yes, drench it in ranch, and eat it without a care! But I do care. And I am saving our iceberg lettuce for tacos.

What are you craving the most, during this strange period of isolation?

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To those of you who have reached out: thank you. You are so sweet and it makes my heart so full to know that I have such a loving little community here on the internet.

My household is fine. I mean, we are all supposed to assume we are infected with coronavirus, right? but we are currently showing no symptoms.

I have been so grateful to those of you who are blogging through These Unprecedented Times. I keep wanting to blog – I keep thinking of things to tell you – but it is very difficult to write when I am obsessively refreshing the fifty or so news sites I now check in with each day. Usually I avoid all news because it causes me such roiling anxiety, but… well, now the roiling anxiety is just a state of being so, why not feed it on a minute-by-minute basis with frenzied updates from all possible media outlets? (My news roll includes Washington Post, NYT, the Atlantic, and CNN, plus a conservative news site that my parents follow so I can read what they are reading, plus three newspaper sites from three different areas of my home state, plus the news site from my brother’s city, plus my own city’s primary newspaper, plus Buzzfeed because sometimes you just need a 17 Cranky Cats in Tiny Sweaters palette cleanser.)

Anyway, what I am saying is that I should probably tone down the fear scrolling and instead do more reading/commenting on your posts and writing some of my own. After all, what we all need in These Unprecedented Times is more of my semi-hysterical trying-too-hard-to-be-funny overzealous-use-of-capital-letters-and-parentheses day-to-day-ridiculousness, right? Okay, so literally no one needs that. But distraction is useful.

When it comes to Blog Block, there’s also the Carla Consideration, as anyone who is both trying to work from home and now taking sole charge of Every Single Moment of their children’s time will be INTIMATELY familiar with. Just now, I had to move my computer from the kitchen table to my office because Carla was busy coloring some unicorns in a coloring book. And by “busy coloring” I mean saying, every six seconds, “Do you like this? How do you like how I colored this? Mommy? What color should this unicorn’s hooves be? And its ears? And its eyes? Is this the color you meant? Mommy? Should I make polka dots on the unicorn’s skin? Do you like this shade of aqua? Look, Mommy.” And it’s adorable and I am actually (SO FAR) cherishing this extra time we have together, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to think when you are constantly choosing unicorn-fur shade and oohing and aahing over a unicorn’s rainbow mane. There are approximately 7,192 unicorns in this book, which is a blessing and a curse.

Any reasonable update of what I’ve been up to since my last post (ha – remember that? a million years ago in The Time Before?) (seriously – I know time has taken on strange qualities but I was SHOCKED to learn that I wrote that carefree keto post less than a month ago) should include Carla, so let’s start there.

Pandemic schedules

Schedules! Useful both for Planning Your Day and also Knowing What Day It Is! Now taking bets on how long I will keep this up, which would have been “two days” except for Carla’s semi-reproachful comment that I hadn’t made today’s list in time for her to read it while eating breakfast.

  • As with the rest of the known universe, Carla is done with school for the foreseeable future. Her school has not gone so far as to put any sort of timeframe on our absence – but it seems like the world is moving toward cancelling the rest of the school year, so that’s what I’m anticipating. We are currently in Week 2 of her previously-scheduled Spring Break, which has given the administration a little breathing room to figure out some sort of distance learning program. We start next week and… I am VERY curious to discover how her very progressive, child-led-learning, no-homework-until-fifth-grade school designs remote lessons for a bunch of first graders.
  • Last week, because it was Spring Break, we put almost no limits on screen time. That was… awful. Carla loves screens but too much time watching shows transforms her from a curious, amiable, active child into a grouchy, defiant, hides-in-a-dark-room-with-only-the-images-from-her-ipad-as-lighting child and I do not care for it. So this week, we are doing more of a Loosely Scheduled thing. This means that I write up a list of tasks for us to complete each day (see above) and then we go through them at a very leisurely pace. It is better for Carla this way, because she just… needs expectations and targeted things to do. She’s good at distracting herself, don’t get me wrong, but unlimited screen time is NOT useful for her. It turns out that she has been very eager to complete all the tasks – more eager than I have been, truthfully; I’d rather sit and read all day than check off the items on the list I made. (Today, when I didn’t have a schedule pre-written and ready to go, she REQUESTED one. Then, when I made it, she pointed out that today’s list only has THIRTEEN items instead of FOURTEEN, when apparently the previous two days had – completely by accident – fourteen items. I am making this all up as I go along, Carla. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it!) I am relying heavily on the free daily activities and lessons from Scholastic, which requires next to zero thinking/planning on my part. Yesterday, we veered from Scholastic because I wanted to plant lettuce in Carla’s mini aero garden, so I designed a curriculum (HA) around the life cycle of a plant. If you think we are sticking EXACTLY to the schedule, you would be wrong. We definitely did not do a math worksheet yesterday, for instance. Or any exercise at all. Also, we have squeezed in lots of unscheduled cuddling/TV time – watching “educational” things like The Zoo and The Aquarium on Animal Planet.
  • We have been playing a lot of games. The games I enjoy include Exploding Kittens and Guess Who. The games I do NOT enjoy include Candy Land and Pit. We have a bunch of other games, of varying quality level, but I also ordered Sorry! from Target, which I have never played (full disclosure: mainly because I really wanted some Oreos and some tortilla chips, but they each only ship if you spend $25 and so I figured that a new game would help put us nicely over that total and also help stave off the inevitable cabin fever). Today, as you will note from our schedule, we will try out Bananagrams. Spelling work disguised as a game! Woo!
  • It is hard to tell what Carla thinks of…All This. She is, for the most part, a very happy, worry-free child. And that seems to persist, despite all these changes. I really need to lay off on things like telling her she shouldn’t eat an entire pint of blueberries in one sitting because they are hard to come by these days… and chiding her for wasting toilet paper. That doesn’t help anything. I am trying really hard to maintain as much a sense of normalcy as possible, but of course my husband and I talk about Pandemic Stuff all the time and Carla is very perceptive – I am sure she feels the palpable increase in tension around her. The only indication that she’s internalizing it is her sleep patterns: the other night, she came into my room at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until six. And last night, she wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom. But… these aren’t entirely abnormal for her, so it’s hard to say if they are Pandemic Related or not. I really, really hope that she is doing okay. Kids are adaptable and resilient… but man, this is all so uncertain and scary and… well, I just hope that everything works out okay.
  • One of the best things we are doing is daily chats with my niece. We have been Facetiming my niece – who lives in another state – and Carla has decided that they are going to read to each other every day. Carla is almost seven and her cousin is almost five. But they both seem to enjoy chatting with each other, and it’s nice for me to be able to have adult conversation – even if brief and interrupted – with my sister-in-law. (Ugh. I am worried about my sister-in-law, who is concerned she may be laid off. Also, she is a single parent who is currently working from home with a four-year-old. She is wonderfully creative and an excellent parent, but… what a CHALLENGE.) I should probably set up some remote “play dates” with Carla’s friends, but I’m not there yet.
  • One of the things I am as yet resisting is Group Interactions. Carla’s Girl Scouts troop leader mentioned that we could do meetings via Zoom or something (I am going to have to figure out what Zoom is, aren’t I?) and, while I get that we should definitely do our regularly scheduled monthly meeting, I am resistant to having additional meetings. It’s not like Carla can just hop on Zoom by herself. And I am not eager to participate in what will probably be a cacophony of seven-year-olds shouting at each other over various computers while their parents and troop leader try to get a word in edgewise. No thank you. Same goes for her ballet class. While the fact that her ballet teacher even suggested that they get together online makes me teary, it is so wonderful and sweet and caring of her to try to establish some sense of normalcy, I just cannot fathom how it would work. I am an introvert’s introvert, and the thought of even remote connection with other humans is challenging to wrap my head around.
  • What else can I update you on? Oh, obviously, keto is out the window. I lost nearly 10% of my bodyweight over the three weeks we did it, which was very gratifying. But I am putting keto on hold while we are in isolation because a) it is very expensive and requires a million trips to the grocery store to keep up our meat and cheese supplies and b) I need carbs to deal with the stress. I just do. On the plus side, being on keto just prior to a pandemic breaking out means that we have SO MUCH CHEESE in our house. Unfortunately, I am so sick of cheese that I have not been eating it. Except on tacos, which I have been loading into delicious, delicious shells.
  • My husband, obviously, is continuing to go to work each day. This is, technically, the most stressful thing in our lives right now. Which is fortunate; we aren’t sick, no one in our circle is sick. (Well, knowingly.) But getting sick feels… inevitable. He keeps leaving the house. He keeps meeting with people – patients, staff, other doctors – any of whom could be infected. When he comes home, he immediately washes his hands and changes his clothes. But… is that enough? I don’t know. I feel like Covid-19 is coming for us, at some point. We keep giving each other fearful, suspicious looks whenever one of us coughs or sneezes. Ugh.
  • My husband is not on the “front lines.” At least, not yet. His specialty is in the same vein as something like pediatrics or urology – where there is a wide spectrum of urgency. Some people need to be seen in the office or surgery center. Others, he can meet with via telehealth platforms or even over the phone. Some days, his patient load is fairly normal-for-a-slow-day; other days, he sees maybe two or three patients. He gets daily emails about changes to insurance and patient access and HIPAA regulations and emergency procedures. He and his partners have weekly meetings about staff changes and patient interaction. His primary office has closed all but one entrance and now takes everyone’s temperature when they enter. His hospital system, like others all over the country (and the world) is struggling with inadequate supplies of masks and gloves and other protective equipment. His hospital system, like others, is preparing for an overwhelming influx of emergent patients. His hospital system has informed him and other specialists that they may need to call on him to do Not His Specialty, but more general medicine, should the need for physicians overload the number of actual physicians available. The whole thing is weird and scary on many levels.
  • To drastically change tone, I have developed what I am referring to as Quarantine Skin. It is likely the result of a) not showering daily because what’s the point (there will come a point when I will need to shower daily for my mental health, but right now skipping showers feels more decadent than depressive) and b) near-constant anxiety and c) the leap back into an All Carbs All the Time lifestyle. I am less bothered by it than I would be if I had to be interacting with outside-my-family-humans, but I am aware that my body is not exactly happy with things at present.
  • As an introvert and an experienced work-from-homer, I am doing okay so far, in terms of our state’s Stay at Home order. Being at home is my preferred state, honestly. And we have a house full of books and videos and games and various digital distractions. Plus, we are very lucky to have a backyard – so, if it would only stop raining, we could go OUTSIDE. If I could just stop obsessing about the news, I would be much better. For the most part, I am sleeping okay. Not great – I wake up frequently to listen to my husband breathe, to listen to Carla turning over in her makeshift bed on my floor, to worry about what would happen if (when?) my husband contracts Covid-19 and brings it home to us, to worry about my parents and my brother and my friends – but okay; I fall asleep fairly easily and have been able to sleep in.
  • Sleeping in is probably the BEST part about this quarantine. My husband’s reduced patient load means that sometimes he isn’t needed at work until eight or even nine o’clock! There’s nothing any of us has to wake up early for, so we sleep in until decadent hours. Carla never seems to get enough sleep during the school year, so I am glad she is able to sleep until her body wakes her up.

 

Well. I have run out of steam for today. Please tell me how YOU are doing during These Unprecedented Times. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and I am thinking of you, and I know that this will pass. There will be A Time After This, there will.  And the best thing we can do is get through today in whatever way we can.

 

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My husband and I have started watching The Outsider together. It is not a good program to watch before bed, let me tell you that. The music alone makes me jumpy, but then there’s the very creepy plot and the VERY creepy figure of a biped in a grey sweatshirt with a ruined/inhuman face peeking out from under the darkness of the hood that just STICKS WITH ME. Usually, following an episode with a Schitt’s Creek chaser helps dispel the creepiness, but sometimes it follows me to bed.

Despite this completely voluntary scaring-myself-out-of-my-wits, I have been enjoying a rare period of Good Sleep. It is not untroubled; I am having lots of Weird Dreams. Recently, I had what felt like a very long and drawn out version of that dream where you have exams approaching but you haven’t gone to class all semester and passing this class is necessary for you to graduate. I have not been in college for MANY YEARS, why does my brain persist in torturing me in this manner???? Anyway, by Good Sleep, I mean that I am able to fall asleep fairly easily and then stay asleep all night long. This is highly unusual for me, because I am a very light sleeper and also a champion worrier, and, as we all know, worries swell rapidly in the middle of the night when you have uninterrupted hours to DWELL on them.

But because I am unaccustomed to sleeping well, and because I am posting about this and surely jinxing it, I am sure another period of Fitful Sleep is just around the corner. (In fact, last night, I woke up at two o’clock and had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. Not enough that it was terribly bothersome, but enough that I wondered if the Good Sleep Period is on its way out.) (Cue ominous music.)

Swistle posted recently about having a hard time sleeping. I loved reading the comments, about ways to force yourself to sleep when sleep refuses to descend naturally. I especially loved one person’s suggestion to go through favorite things alphabetically – favorite foods, for instance, or TV shows, or birds, or whatever. That’s one I haven’t tried but sounds lovely.

After pondering it for awhile, I realized that I have been employing a bunch of techniques over the years to help myself get to sleep. Do you have any tried-and-true tactics that you use to fall asleep?

Get-to-sleep techniques that I have used for many years and work often (but not always, hence the multiple options):

1. A walk to/through someplace soothing. My dad gave me this technique decades ago, so it’s the one I’ve used the most. I have a family vacation spot I love, so I imagine myself leaving the house, walking to the car, getting in the car, driving down the driveway, turning onto the road, bumping over the deeply rutted gravel, passing the horse pasture, etc. etc. etc. until I arrive at the lake. The key to this one is to go through every step of the journey, imagining in as much detail as possible the surroundings and the path to get to the destination. I have also done this with the grocery store or Target – leaving my house, driving to the store, then walking through each aisle and naming pleasant/benign things as I put them into my cart. The only risk with the Target option is that I might start thinking about things I actually should get at Target, and that’s more wakeful than restful.

2. Silently reciting a poem. This one takes prep work, obviously. But it has been SO helpful. I use Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and I just go through it line by line until I fall asleep. There was a particularly brutal period in my recent past when I could NOT get to sleep and I would have to go through the poem backwards as well as forwards. I don’t think I could do that anymore, but it was a distracting brain challenge that would eventually lull me into sleep. Perhaps I should get myself a new poem to memorize so I have choices.

3. Deep breathing. This is a technique I learned during a brief stint in therapy a few years ago. It’s for dealing with stress/anxiety, but I find it helpful when I’m trying to sleep, too. In for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts, hold for four counts. The counting makes it hard for my mind to drift and the breathing is soothing.

4. Counting my blessings. This one has the potential to create the opposite of the intended mindset, so. Use at your own risk. But I force myself to list things I’m grateful for, even the Very Smallest of Things, like “my husband is not currently snoring” or “someone else changed the toilet paper roll.” (In such cases, it’s critical to list the thing and move on quickly or else you can wind up feeling frustrated and put upon for having to be grateful for something as toilet paper rolls in the first place.) Or sometimes I will think of a loved one and list all the things I like about him/her, from the big (“kind,” “honest,” “wakes up singing”) to the small (“drew me a picture of a cat today,” “beard tickles pleasantly when we kiss”).

5. Mindless reading.This is something I turn to only when desperate, because I’ve read enough warnings about how screens can actually prevent you from sleeping to know better. But in dire cases, I will read something boring or soothing. In the soothing category is going through the archives of a much-loved blog, like Swistle’s or the Ask a Manager blog. (Although the latter can be potentially riling.) Or I will seek out a Wikipedia article on something I have very little interest in, like engines or stained glass or animal husbandry. Best case, I lull myself into sleep. Worst case, I learn something new which I can use to bore others to sleep.

If I absolutely STILL cannot fall asleep, I have found that the next step is getting out of the bed. Use the bathroom. Get a (small) drink of water. Walk around the house, checking on the other sleeping inhabitants. (Not recommended if you are in someone else’s house, or if you are hosting sleeping inhabitants who are not your own non-adult progeny; otherwise you risk troubling other people’s sleep for the rest of their creeped-out lives.)

Making a list often helps. Things that I am worrying about. Things I have to do the next day. Things I want to make for dinner. Things I want to eat right that second. Things I need to buy at Target. The content of the list doesn’t seem to matter as much as the act of list-making.

My Last Resort technique is to change my clothes. New underpants, new pajamas. Maybe I will even brush my hair and re-brush my teeth. It’s like a getting-ready-for-bed do-over.

I suppose the last last resort would be to just get up and start my day. But with all the above get-to-sleep techniques, I haven’t had to do that.

Yet. There’s still time.

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If you thought that we could return to fret-free normalcy now that the dinner party is over, you were WRONG.

Let’s move right along to the next fretworthy topic, shall we?

My husband and I are going on a trip. Just the two of us. We are not calling it a second honeymoon, although I suppose that’s what it is; it’s our tenth anniversary gift to one another.

We are going to Europe and we are both VERY EXCITED about it.

But.

We are leaving Carla behind.

She will remain in our house in the loving and capable hands of my parents. She will be continuing with her regular routine of school and extracurricular activities. But I am FREAKING OUT about leaving her.

Firstly, the longest I’ve ever been away from her is a week.

Secondly, the longest my husband and I have together been away from her is two days.

Thirdly, I am really worried my husband and I are going to die in a plane crash and leave her an orphan.

Fourthly, I am FREAKING OUT.

So I am hoping you have some advice for me as we prepare to leave our beloved baby behind.

We have mentioned the trip several times, with increasing frequency as we get closer to the trip. So Carla knows it’s coming. I don’t know if this is a good strategy or not; my concern is that we’re making her think/fret about it too much in advance. But I also don’t want to spring it on her. That would be awful and cruel (at least, for my particular kid), to wake up one day and say, “Bye! See you in ten days!”

I have been making a ridiculous number of lists for my parents, so they know everything from the foods she will and might eat to how to walk her into school each morning to what she needs to bring to ballet class.

I have talked things over with her teachers, who seem very unconcerned with the whole thing. (Bless Carla’s teacher: when I told her recently that I thought our being gone would be rough, she immediately said that I can email her or call her ANY TIME. When really I meant that things would be rough on Carla, not on me. She knows me to my CORE, apparently.)

What else can I do?

When my mom went to Russia for a week or two when I was… five? ten? she recorded herself reading Nancy Drew books, so I could play them on cassette tapes at bedtime. What a kind and loving thing for her to do! Maybe I need to do something similar?

When I was in California for a writing conference, and the time difference made phone calls difficult, I made little videos for Carla each morning that my mother-in-law could play for her after school. I think Carla liked those, but it seemed like they may also have made her upset and teary at bedtime? But maybe she would have been upset and teary anyway? I don’t know. I am wondering whether my husband and I should try to Facetime her every day, or if it would make her miss us more?

How else can I make Carla more comfortable about our leaving? How else can I make ME more comfortable about our leaving?

And how are we supposed to say goodbye to her, when she then has to go to school while we prance off to the airport? Do we drop her off and say goodbye in her classroom? That seems awful, but also her teachers would be Right There to distract her. Do we say goodbye at home and let my parents drop her off? DO WE CANCEL THE WHOLE TRIP?

Have you and your spouse ever left your child for a longish time? What were some things you did to prepare yourself/your child? Were there any things you wish you had/hadn’t done?

It’s going to be okay, right? RIGHT?

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The day is not off to a good start.

Part of it is actual, part of it is mental, part of it is diet-al.

Part the first: I have managed to make my child simultaneously hate school and believe that her teachers are going to be mad at her if she isn’t perfect. We had parent teacher conferences last week, and her teachers mentioned a couple of things Carla needed to work on. And I mentioned those things to her, and we talked about some strategies, and she got really cranky and irritable with me and then we moved on. We had a lovely weekend. This morning, she waltzed into my room in one of her signature amazing ensembles (purple pants, pink shirt, faux leopard fur vest, sparkly headband) in a happy mood and snuggled with me until my alarm went off. I reminded her this morning about what we had discussed, and it was like flipping a switch. All of a sudden she was hot and would I take her temperature. No fever. She was really tired and naptime at school is way too far away so she wants to stay home. She doesn’t want to go to school. She’s NOT going to school. I tried to figure out what the deal was – she LOVES school; over the weekend, we drove past her school and the parking lot was full and she said “No fair! Those kids get to be there on the weekend!” – and eventually got out of her that she thinks she won’t be able to do what we discussed and her teachers will be mad at her. So. No school. She’s done.

Well shit.

I tried everything in my Mommy Toolkit to persuade her: Assurance: We don’t expect you to be perfect, we expect you to try your best. Your teachers love you. Here are all the wonderful things they told me about you at the conference. Here are all the things for which your father and I are so proud of you. Bribery: If you go to school today, you get to do X! I will let you bring your horse in the car on the way to school! If you still feel bad at school, you can go to the nurse and she will call me to come get you! Logic: School is your job, you have to go. If Daddy didn’t want to go to work, what would happen? It’s a law that kids your age have to go to school. Mild threats: If you don’t go, here are all the fun things you will miss. If you stay home, you will be bored; no TV, I have work to do so I can’t play with you. And – bringing out the big guns – I will make you go on ERRANDS with me. She was undeterred.

Finally, after assuring her for the ten thousandth time that neither her teachers nor I would be mad at her, that none of us expects her to be PERFECT, that we just want her to TRY… After singing her the Daniel Tiger song about “your best is the best for you”… After coming up with some specific strategies to try with her teachers… FINALLY, I got her out the door. We were thirty-five minutes late.

And then, when I was telling her teacher about the strategies we had discussed and explaining what had happened, I of course burst into tears. Because nothing makes a Bad Parenting Morning worse than leaking it all over your child’s poor teacher. The only saving grace was that we were so late, there weren’t many other parents lingering in the halls to see me blubbering.

Man, I really screwed things up. And I don’t know exactly HOW, or exactly how to fix it, or how to do it differently. And she still needs to work on the things she needs to work on, although obviously they are not DIRE. (Though I managed to get poor Carla to feel that they ARE dire.) And my heart just feels so RAW for her, because she is working so hard at growing up – so, so hard – and she wants to please us and her teachers so badly, and she is so much more sensitive than sometimes even I realize. And of all people in the world, I should be the one who KNOWS what she needs and understands how to get through to her without screwing her up and I DON’T.

So that’s the actual.

The mental is the crushing certainty that I am the absolute worst choice of person to be a parent. And that nonetheless I have to do it anyway. And at stake are my child’s PERMANENT HAPPINESS AND WELL BEING.

There is also the outward spiraling, wherein I begin to feel that everything else in life is terrible too: our house is falling apart, I can’t keep up with the to-do list, I am failing as a writer. You know. One bit of the scaffolding gets knocked in and the whole structure comes tumbling down.

Then there’s the diet-al, which is stupid and I should just QUIT because it’s making me miserable. I have a constant headache. I feel nauseated and my brain seems to be going at half speed. I am not particularly hungry or missing foods all that much, but I do have a rather abnormally intense fixation on Diet Coke.

You can see how this all adds up to a bad morning so far.

Two things I am using to try to pull myself out of this negativity quicksand:

  1. The diet is over as of Thursday morning. I will be celebrating with a big bowl of pasta and a thick slice of cake.
  2. I have a pedicure scheduled with a friend for Friday, which should be relaxing and my friend and I will get to chat and catch up.

And between me, my husband, and Carla’s teachers, we should be able to figure out how to redirect her perfectionism… somehow? Right?

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Thank you all for your kind words on my last post. It’s so easy for that feeling of discomfort and awkwardness to spread until it’s stained every bit of me with self-loathing. I seriously never thought to consider my attempts to be friendly as… progress. I will try to do so from now on.

In the month since I wrote it, well. Life has gone on. Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it heartbreaking, the regular amalgam of living. And, listen, I don’t really want to talk about any of the reasons I might have needed comfort during that time period. (It’s nothing serious, although it felt like it was. In any event, everything is fine.) Today, I just want to talk about the comfort part.

What I turn to, when I need comfort, are distractions (reading, writing, TV) and comforting food. And the food is what I’m most interested in today, because I find it fascinating (and soothing, in itself) to learn what kinds of food people turn to in times of stress or grief.

Sure, food is primarily for sustenance. But it can also carry so much emotional weight. (No moral weight, though; I feel strongly about that.) (Unless you are killing endangered species because their XYZ is a delicacy. Then I’d have a moral objection.)  For instance, my first helping instinct is often related to food. When a neighbor lost her husband earlier this year, I immediately wanted to give her a meal. That just seemed the most useful, reasonable thing I could do, to provide some modicum of comfort to a person I know but don’t know well, a person who was likely reeling with shock and heartache and visitors and logistics and grief.

I looked online, as one does, and was surprised – probably naively so – to see what a wide variety of options people recommended. I always thought a casserole was the appropriate thing to give. A nice, hearty macaroni casserole. Or a lasagna. Something like that: easy to heat, carb-heavy. But the recommendations spanned everything from veggies and dip to cookies to fried chicken to stew.

(I ended up making a stew. It was delicious, and hearty. The death happened in the winter, and I thought it would be good for freezing or ladling out to visitors.)

Lately, after needing some comfort myself, and then remembering that stew, I got to thinking about Food As Comfort in general, and how my idea of Comfort Food might be totally different from yours.

When I am in need of comfort, I turn to the carb-heavy stuff. Chicken paprikas is my go-to favorite. It’s creamy and noodle-y and spicy, and it just makes me feel warm and cared for. It’s kind of weird that it should be my top favorite comfort food, I think, because I didn’t grow up eating it. Instead, it’s something my husband and I started making together back when I was in grad school. Well, maybe that’s the reason: I associate it with him, with cozy dinners at home together with the one person who comforts me more than anyone else.

Sometimes, though, the comfort I need is more primal – a bear returning to its cave to weather the icy winds, a newborn nuzzling up to its mother to nurse, a caterpillar spinning itself a chrysalis. I want to retreat to childhood, which was safe and loving, during which I was free from the horrors of the world. And there are many foods from my childhood that surround me with that kind of basic, fundamental warmth.

One comforting favorite is spaghetti with meat sauce. That’s the first meal I learned to make for my family, back when I was a kid. It reminds me of my childhood and of my own self-sufficiency.

Most recently, I turned to bagels. Another longterm favorite, my mom used to toast Lender’s bagels for me when I was a kid. Dripping with butter, they taste both decadent and simple, life’s complications reduced to its elemental truth: Warm bread. Melted butter. Sometimes honey, making its way in sticky rivulets down my wrist. When I was pregnant with Carla – and horribly sick for twenty-five weeks (I first typed “months” and yes, that’s how it felt) – I subsisted on bagels and pizza. The bagels would stay in my stomach when nothing else would.

Grilled cheese holds a special place in my heart. It was my mother’s go-to Miserable Wintry Day food. A crust of butter on each slice of bread. A thick molten heart of Velveeta. A glass of classic Coke on the side. The unbeatable combination of gooeyness and crunch.

And I’ll always have fond memories of Lipton noodle soup. My mom swears by chicken noodle soup; Lipton did the job just fine, and (a plus for me), has no unappealing chunks of white Styrofoam masquerading as chicken. I tore open many a paper packet and watched the tiny freeze-dried noodles plump up in a swirl of boiling water.

The comfort may not be permanent. But it does help.

What are your go-to comfort foods?

 

Chicken Paprikas 3

This is a ridiculous photo, but it’s the only one I have. I never eat this little. I eat a FULL BOWL, primarily full of sauce, which is the best part of any meal. 

Chicken Paprikas (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Ingredients:

Approximately 6 servings

1 to 1½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast, chopped into bite sized pieces (pre-cooked is ideal; I’ve included a modification below in case you want to use raw chicken breast)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 white onion, chopped roughly

1 Idaho potato, chopped roughly

1 to 3 Tbsp paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

½ to 1 tsp salt

4 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 8-oz container sour cream (I use the fat free sour cream from Trader Joe’s)

3 to 4 Tbsp flour or cornstarch

1 package egg noodles

Directions:

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a stock pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Add onion and paprika (and optional cayenne) to vegetable oil, stirring occasionally, until dark red and glossy.
  3. Add salt, chopped chicken breast, and chicken stock. When the mixture comes to a boil, add the chopped potato. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until you can stick a fork into the potato chunks and they slide off easily. I don’t know how to say this a better way; make sure the potato is cooked.

* If you have raw chicken breast pieces, you can do this step slightly differently. Add the raw chicken together with the salt and stock. Then, once it comes to a boil, simmer everything for 15 minutes until cooked through. Then add the potato and cook for another 15 minutes.

  1. Whisk flour/cornstarch and sour cream together in a small bowl.
  2. Add a ladle full of the stock mixture to the sour cream mixture and whisk until incorporated. Do this three times.
  3. Add the tempered sour cream mixture to the pot. Stir.
  4. Serve over egg noodles.

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Everything seems worse/harder without sleep. On those no-rest days, the world is likely not more on the verge of tipping into the abyss than usual, so try to be kind to yourself and go to bed to early.

While 250 words may not feel like a worthwhile number of words, it’s still better than 0 words.

You may feel a persistent urgency to buy more cumin, but you probably have more cumin than any human needs stocked away in the pantry. Same goes for OxiClean. And 409. And ketchup.

The bad thing didn’t happen. You can stop worrying about it.

Folding laundry is much easier if you do it immediately after the dryer beeps rather than letting the clean loads pile up in insurmountable mountains.

Library books, once checked out, need to be returned.

For Pete’s sake, check the fridge before you leave for the store so you don’t wind up with no onions (or 8).

Black Mirror may be riveting TV, but it will make you feel like scooping up your family and moving immediately to a remote lean-to in the Northwest Territories. So perhaps watch Fresh Off the Boat instead.

Your child is infinitely more cooperative when you use a cheerful, friendly voice than when you use a growly, frustrated, put-upon voice.

Make the elaborate dish on your meal plan early in the week, or you will lose motivation and wind up scrounging through the freezer for easy alternatives and wasting the rosemary.

It’s just a movie/book/TV show. The horrors that lie within are not happening to you.

Coupons are only worth clipping if you take them with you to Target.

Go to sleep at a decent time. Watching another episode of Naked and Afraid is not worth a blurry, stumbly morning.

 

 

What do you keep forgetting?

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