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Posts Tagged ‘Worries’

I got a call from the nurse at Carla’s camp. I feel like school/camp nurses should be contractually obligated to begin ALL phone calls to a parent with “Your child is FINE, but this is the nurse and I am calling because…” I mean, unless the child is not fine, but we are fortunately not going down that path today. 

Apparently, Carla’s eye was bothering her. The nurse went through the steps she’d taken to relieve the pain: flushed the eye, applied a compress, looked at it. I didn’t have any other advice for her (am not a nurse) and we were about an hour out from the end of the camp day, so I said, “Okay, sounds like we should keep an eye on it. But I don’t think I should come get her early, do you?” The nurse said she didn’t think so.

I mean, things get into eyes, right? Dust and eyelashes and contact lens solution. And it can be irritating or painful, but you flush the eye and blink a lot and just… let it resolve. 

This was my attitude as I went to pick up Carla from camp. Her eye was still bothering her. She kept it half shut and it was red and a little puffy. Otherwise, she was cheerful. She had no idea what happened to the eye! All of sudden, it just started hurting! 

Just to be safe – you know, to consult An Actual Doctor instead of relying on my admittedly lacking Mom Skillz – I called the eye doctor on the way home. No answer at his office. The answering service said there was a Dr. C on call and took a message. 

Carla and I went home and she lay on the floor and I gave her a compress to put on her eye. Boy, she’s really milking this, I thought affectionately/exasperatedly. I took a photo of her and sent it to my parents along with my (near) daily report of Carla’s activities.  

Carla lay there for a long time. I looked at her eye. It was red, yes. But the pupil looked normal and she seemed otherwise fine. She’ll blink it out, I thought. She said, “I think I’m going to go swing,” and I agreed, feeling satisfied that she was Fine, and was done playing the Woe Is Me card. 

My father called. He doesn’t often call out of the blue – my parents are schedule-a-time-to-talk folk. He said that my mom had read my email, and told him immediately that something was wrong with Carla’s eye. OVERREACTING MUCH, MOTHER? I thought, exasperated. She’ll blink it out eventually!

But my dad had a bunch of concerned-sounding questions. And while we were talking, Carla came inside from swinging – after maybe two minutes, which is Very Unlike Her – and lay back down on the floor and asked for another cold compress. 

My husband was now texting me about Carla’s eye. He, like my dad, was asking a lot of questions in a way that made me nervous. Suddenly, my Wait Until You Blink It Out plan seemed foolish.

My dad said that I should call the on-call ophtho back if I hadn’t heard from him in 30 minutes. It had been… 45. So when I got off the phone – significantly chastened and now feeling kind of worried – I called him back. I waited around for a bit – 15 minutes, maybe? And then I texted my husband that we were going to pick him up on the way to the Emergency Room. 

We have been to the Emergency Room a handful of times. Once, my husband sliced open his thumb (if you drop a glass dish in the sink, do not try to catch it in your hand is my hot tip of the day). Once, I was holding Carla’s hand while we were in Target and she sat down and dislocated her elbow. Once, I was working on a project with a friend and she sliced open her finger. There were a couple of other times: Carla’s cheek met a dog’s tooth (it was not a bite, it was a collision); I drove an ATV through a barbed-wire fence neck first; my father-in-law had sudden onset chest pains. It is never pleasant and it always takes a million years. 

I had not even considered bringing something for Carla to look at/play with (see above re: Mom Skillz), so the three of us sat in the ER and my husband allowed Carla to play a video game on his phone. 

Of course, her eye was starting to look SO MUCH better. The redness had faded, and she was looking at the screen of the phone with both eyes rather than keeping the one squeezed shut. My husband and I exchanged Significant Looks.

We only waited an hour. (In addition to forgetting about entertainment, I also forgot about FOOD [Mom Skillz!] and so it was now seven p.m. and none of us had eaten.) A resident checked Carla and did a full physical exam, which is pretty rare among doctors these days and therefore notable. She wanted to a) flush the eye and b) check it with a special dye to see if there were any scratches. But she needed to consult with the attending physician first and see if they needed to call in the on-call ophtho (presumably the same guy who NEVER called me back harrumph). The attending physician came in. She was cheerful and friendly and agreed with the resident’s assessment. She left. After more time passed, a nurse came in with saline solution and a special syringe. Carla required A Lot of Discussion and several demonstrations before she would allow the nurse to flush her eye with the solution. And then she would only do it for several seconds at a time. It was very cold, apparently. She and the patient angel of a nurse would count to seven out loud together and then take a break. It took ten million years to get 100 ml of saline into my child’s eye. Then we waited for awhile until the attending came back. After a lot of coaxing, she got some of the bright yellow dye in Carla’s eye, turned off the lights, and examined her eye with a special light. She didn’t see any scratches, she said. 

Carla said her eye felt a little better! It was only when she looked straight ahead and blinked that it hurt. She was very cheerful. The attending was very cheerful. She said that someone would be in to flush Carla’s eye a second time, and then we could be on our way.

We waited another while. Carla watched a Disney show on Netflix. (There was a TV in the room, but it was off and no one had said we could watch TV. But… My husband just reached behind the bed and grabbed the remote and turned on the TV! I would never in a million years think to do that without explicit permission.) 

A fourth person came in. She was a EMT, she told us, and she was there to flush Carla’s eye! Carla was much more amenable to the flushing this time. 

After the EMT left, another nurse came in with our discharge papers and we left. 

As we walked out, Carla started complaining that her eye still hurt. 

The next morning when Carla woke up, her eye was still red and now it was all crusty. To be expected, after undergoing whatever trauma it had undergone. But she was still keeping the one eye closed and complaining of pain when she looked forward and blinked.

So I kept her home from camp and got her an appointment with her eye doctor. 

He came in, flushed her eye, put the special dye in… But he said that he could see a bunch of scratches on her eye where something was irritating it. And he LISTENED to her when she said that she was fine when she kept her eyes closed or when she looked to the side, but that it hurt when she looked forward and blinked. Also – and this is a skill I deeply admire – the ophtho managed to listen to Carla and be sympathetic to her fears about being touched/having Things Done to her, while moving things along at a good clip. He did not allow Carla to stall and delay, he did what he needed to do. And it was all over SO FAST! 

After MUCH (but efficient) COAXING, he flipped her eyelid inside out. And there it was, plain as day: a little speck of something, minuscule but visible even to my untrained eye. The ophtho used a swab to remove it. He and Carla speculated that it was a little piece of tree bark, although I have no idea how they came to that conclusion; it looked like dust to me. He gave her a prescription for an antibiotic (because of the scratches) and a special ointment and sent us on our way.

She was completely pain free by the time we reached the car.

The moral of the story is: ALWAYS HAVE THE DOCTOR FLIP THE EYELID. We could have saved SO MUCH time and money and trouble if we had asked the resident or the ER attending to just flip! the! eyelid! Or, even better, if we had thought to have my physician husband flip her eyelid himself at home!

Okay, okay. I am going to take a deep breath. This is why we have health insurance (thank goodness) and this is what money is for. Breathing. Breathing.

The secondary motto is DON’T UNDERESTIMATE EYE STUFF. Because even if you think it is just a dumb eyelash that will blink out eventually, maybe it is a piece of metal that could cause serious damage.

Meanwhile, the on-call ophtho never called us back. Never. I am still mad about it. My husband calls people back at 2:30 in the morning when he is on call. Because that is what it means to be on call. You take patient calls and you return them. The returning of the calls is a critical part. My husband suggested that maybe the ophtho wasn’t accustomed to getting emergency calls! And so he wasn’t paying attention to his phone! To which I say PAH. Even if my husband is delayed by doing a procedure or being with a patient, he calls patients back. Even if he gets a call from a patient that is frustrating in its non-urgency, he still calls that patient back. And I called this on-call ophtho TWICE! Still. Mad. About. It. 

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Carla’s birthday is a little more than a month away and I have NOTHING planned. Usually by this point, I have fretted all over this little blog about theme and where to find theme-appropriate napkins and how difficult it was to pin down a venue and which cake I’m going to make. But this year, I have… nothing. 

(Not even a cake request, which is very un-Carla! And perhaps… perhaps this is the year I outsource the cake baking????)

Part of the problem – maybe the MAIN part – is that Carla doesn’t have any sort of specific desire for a party this year. I mean, she wants A Party. But she hasn’t said “I want a tea party” or “let’s all play LEGOs” or “I want to paint pottery!” or whatever. I am not a creative person, when it comes to birthdays. All my creativity crumples into dust beneath the anxiety of planning an event and executing that event and then attending said event with multiple other humans, all of whom I am expected to interact with. 

The only things at all that Carla has expressed interest in are a) a sleepover and b) a party at our house, featuring a treasure hunt. 

Treasure Hunt: When Carla’s cousin was here recently, I made a treasure hunt for them. I’ve done one another time, when I hosted three other families and did a treasure hunt for the kids. I LIKE making treasure hunts. But the older the kids get, the more challenging it is to create clues that won’t stump them, but will take more than five seconds to solve. 

Plus, while I am fine chasing my one niece and my one child around our very safe cul-de-sac while they look for clues, I don’t know a) how I would feel about chasing multiple nine-year-olds around the neighborhood or b) how other parents might feel about their kids being let loose into the wild.

It is almost more challenging to come up with prizes for this age group. Although I suppose if Carla lands on a theme, I could find something that works. 

The biggest challenge of all with treasure hunts is making them long enough. You can make 20 clues and have the kids run up and down the stairs and around the cul-de-sac and it still ends up taking them under 15 minutes to finish. Which is quite deflating when it takes MUCH LONGER THAN THAT to create the clues and hide them.

Party at Our House: The main issue, though, is that I don’t want to have a party at my house. I find the idea of a bunch of kids invading my space SO stressful, even though it shouldn’t be. 

All my birthday parties when I was growing up took place at my house. And they were wonderful! I remember, when I was really little, playing games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, or drop a pin in a bucket while blindfolded. My mother made treasure hunts, which is probably where I learned to love them. 

My mom was fantastic about birthday parties, my whole life. She always did something fun and delightful. My favorite childhood birthday was the one where she bought a little Troll doll for each guest and we all sat around my kitchen table and decorated them. I seem to remember that it was a contest, but… I’m sure she found some way to make it so that everyone won. 

(Is there a Troll-doll equivalent that today’s nine-year-olds would like?)

There’s also a bit of Keeping Up with the Joneses going on, I can admit. Carla’s classmates often have very impressive parties – think bouncy houses and country clubs and backyard pools. Most of Carla’s friends live in enormous homes with beautiful properties. When we’ve been invited over for parties, there are gorgeous decorations and catered food. Our backyard is (currently) a marsh, and gets so incredibly hot in the summer that it’s not really comfortable for guests. Our outdoor furniture is old and mismatched and we don’t have the ziplines or stone patios or pools that many people have. Our house itself is smallish and somewhat in disrepair – both facts that seem glaringly obvious when we have other people over. Plus, after hosting Carla’s first two or three birthday parties here, I find decorating SO stressful it’s just not even worth it. I want the Instagram/Pinterest-worthy party, but I am not great at executing that level of creativity/cuteness. I suppose I could pay someone else to do it, but that sounds pricey.

If I could be certain that all the parents would just roll up to our driveway and toss their kids out the door and leave… I might feel a little bit better. Kids in general aren’t super judgmental – I don’t remember noticing the décor or size or quality of furniture at any of my friends’ houses – and I think as long as they got to roam around and eat cake, they would be okay. Maybe this is the age where parents would feel okay dropping them off? Maybe this is the perfect time for me to get away with a banner and a couple of balloons and maybe a colorful tablecloth and not do anything else???

I don’t know. Even if it were just kids, I think I would find it very anxious-making. I much prefer going to a specific place that has employees who entertain the kids or supervise an activity and then going home to my quiet, clean, one-kid-only home.

To recap: it feels like having a party HERE would require a) outsourcing and spending a lot of money or b) doing things myself and becoming very stressed AND probably spending a lot of money. I want to avoid it… but I don’t have any alternate ideas. It feels like we’ve exhausted the typical birthday party venues… and I’ve tried looking for others with no success. 

The new Jurassic World movie is coming out around her birthday, and Carla is desperate to see it. Our local movie theaters were allowing people to rent them out for birthdays… but I haven’t looked into whether they are still doing that. Plus, I don’t know how many of Carla’s friends’ parents would allow them to see a Jurassic World movie (nor how many of her friends would actually want to see it). That may be something the three of us do as a family. 

Sleepover: Probably the best compromise would be hosting a sleepover. The reason this feels like a compromise is that I would limit Carla to one or two friends, so it would be less stressful. Presumably. But… then she would have to choose just one or two friends, and she’s a kid who has a LOT of friends, so I don’t know how she would choose. In this time of Covid, would anyone even be comfortable with that (not that they aren’t sharing the same air every day at school)? And my beloved child is a person whose energy level escalates in direct proportion to how tired she is, so I am imagining that NO ONE would sleep at all. Not that you are expected to sleep much at a sleepover, but… no sleep sounds pretty dreadful for all involved, including the poor parents who would be collecting their exhausted children the next day. 

Plus… what do you DO for a nine-year-old sleepover? The only sleepovers I remember (and, bless my parents, sometimes I had MANY friends sleep over) involved activities like calling boys on my phone or watching scary movies or playing with my Ouija board… all of which seem a little mature for this age group. 

A few of my friends-who-are-parents don’t do a party at all for their kids. For some, this is just the way it is. For others, maybe some years it works out and some years it doesn’t. I wish we could go this route! But I know Carla LOVES a party, so I’m not sure she would roll with it. 

As usual, the VAST BULK of this stress is mine. I know Carla wouldn’t really care about any of the things that bother me. I know her friends wouldn’t really care, I know even the most judgmental of parents would only turn up their noses for a few seconds before forgetting about me entirely. And yet I cannot talk myself out of feeling the stress. 

So here I am, doing nothing but fretting, as the weeks tick by.

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I have done it! I have done the thing I always think I should do, and never do, which is to GET UP when I awaken in the middle of the night and do something more useful than lying awake, counting how many hours of sleep I could get if I fell asleep right then.

Lest you think I am no longer susceptible to the patterns of the past: I woke up at 3:00 a.m., almost on the dot, and then lay in bed/read soothing blog posts until 4:00, and then lay in bed in the dark, telling myself I should just GET UP ALREADY and start the day until 4:37. That’s when I finally Did The Thing and put on my glasses and came downstairs. I deserve a Sleep Award. Although, now that I think of it, a Sleep Award seems more appropriate for sleeping restfully through an entire eight-plus hours, so perhaps I’ll have to relinquish my claim.

In lieu of an award, I am drinking tea, as I do when I wake up. My stomach is a little uncomfortable with this idea – it thinks it is Sleeping Time, rather than Accepting Sustenance Time. It is also a little concerned about what time we will want lunch. 

If only the grocery store were open now, and I could get that over with! Oh well. I will blog about random nothings instead! 

  • Carla has been having extra trouble getting to sleep lately. Firstly, I feel just terrible that she has apparently inherited my fraught relationship with sleep. She has had trouble falling asleep her entire eight-and-a-half years, and that doesn’t bode well for the remainder of her life, which I hope is very long. At least, I suppose, she seems to be able to maintain sleep once she gets there. While I occasionally have trouble getting to sleep, my main issue is staying asleep.
  • Well, I suppose my brain is smoothing over the many, many times that Carla has come into my room at 3:00 or 4:00, or that I have awakened to learn that she had been awake for hours already. BUT, it seems less frequent than her troubles drifting off. The power of posting about something of the internet will immediately ensure that she wakes up at 3:00 every morning for the next month.
  • The only thing that comes close to the frustration of not being able to fall asleep is the frustration of one’s CHILD not being able to fall asleep. Last night, my husband and I were watching the first episode of Sex Education and I kept hearing suspicious thumps coming from upstairs. It was quite windy outside, and my husband felt that the thumps might be exterior noises, while I was quite sure they were human. And then we had one of those mildly irritating conversations I imagine happen frequently in any longterm partnership, where he said, “Do you want to go check on her?” and I said “yes,” because I’d HEARD “Do you want ME to go check on her?” And then he had to correct my misperception and I had to glare at him briefly before I went to investigate the source of the thumps. 
  • Thump source: Carla. Instead of reading quietly or thinking about sheep or doing deep breathing – all of which we have discussed AT LENGTH in regards to their soporific powers – she felt the best way to induce sleep was to get out of bed and gather some toys and play with them, in the bed. On the bed. Preposition the bed. Exasperation! Incredulity! How did she think this was a good way to get to sleep? And yet she seemed very sincere that she thought it would help. Trying to turn down the scold volume on my lecture, I removed the toys and reminded her of all the other options that we have discussed for helping lull our brains to sleep. Count backwards from 100. Count backwards by 5s from 1000. Imagine yourself, in great detail, walking along the route to somewhere you love. List 50 things you are grateful for. Go through the alphabet and name an animal beginning with each letter. Do some deep breathing. Read a book. Recite a poem over and over in your head. When I went back to check on her about 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. Sometimes it seems like the BEST way to induce sleep is to scold her about it. Which seems… not right. 
  • Carla mentioned to me that she cannot see pictures in her head, so the “walking along the route to somewhere you love” isn’t a viable option for her. I love that she’s so aware of what it’s like inside her head. I don’t see pictures in my head either, but I guess my internal travel writer is so descriptive that I can still make that option work. Or I can drum up a feeling of a place that is almost as vivid as an image. 
  • Also, it is unfair of me to expect that she remember these techniques when I am terrible at remembering them myself! Only when I am DESPERATE for sleep do I recall most of these strategies. The one that I use most often – mentally reciting Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” until I fall asleep – sometimes doesn’t even occur to me in the middle of a 3:00 am wakeup. Instead, I turn to my phone, which almost certainly makes it HARDER for me to sleep. 
  • There was supposed to be a secondly somewhere up there. I suppose you have forgotten about it as well. But on the off chance you were waiting on tenterhooks – “You did the ‘firstly,’ what’s the ‘secondly’? WHAT’S THE SECONDLY?” – I cannot remember. 
  • I have finished my first book of poetry for the year. One of my 2022 aspirations is to read a poem every morning, and I have been keeping up with that so far. However, I may not have chosen the best book to start out the year. I selected a book at random and came up with The Seven Ages by Louise Gluck. She has an umlaut over the u in her surname; I don’t how to do that on my computer. I adore Louise’s poetry. (This makes it sound as though we are on a first-name basis, which we are not. I did meet her once, though. We went out to lunch and she is as fascinating as one hopes a famous poet would be.) But The Seven Ages is all about her contemplating her own death. That’s all fine and good, and it resonates, and I appreciate reading her thoughts from the perspective of being 50ish because I am nearing that age. But it was also a little depressing. Perhaps I will try a Billy Collins book next; I own two of his collections, but I don’t think I’ve ever read the poems; my impression is that they are lighter and sometimes attempt to be humorous.
  • One of the Gluck poems has really stuck with me. It’s called “The Sensual World,” which, in my opinion, mis-implies what the poem is about or how to read it. But poems are very personal, so you do you, boo. Anyway, the poem is about how the world will grip you in startling and unpredictable and inescapable ways. There is this moment of exquisite beauty that the narrator recounts, in the kitchen of her grandmother. A tiny moment: a glass of juice; its taste; the way the light refracts through it. But it leads the narrator to offer an urgent warning about the trap that life has set for you: “you will never let go, you will never be satiated. / You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger. / Your body will age, you will continue to need. / You will want the earth, then more of the earth – / Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond. / It is encompassing, it will not minister. / Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you, / it will not keep you alive.” It makes my heart pound, it resonates so deeply. I am so familiar with those moments – of shocking beauty that flares suddenly out of the mundane, of intense love provoked by the smallest, most inconsequential thing (a kitten at the pet store, butting its head against your hand; a child seeing you in distress and trying to soothe you with the very techniques you use to soothe the child; an unexpected kindness from a stranger; a moment of private humor with a spouse; a child, asleep, with hands folded beneath the chin as though posed). And I know the exact feeling of wanting to clutch those things with both hands even as I know – we all know – they are not ours to keep. It is not our lot to hold them forever, but only for the short time we have on this plane of existence. You will never let go. It will not keep you alive.
  • Yesterday, I experienced one of those moments of satisfaction/guilt that seem to be a hallmark of parenting. Carla was really anxious about returning to school (who knows why?!?! Is it the constant barrage of contradictory information, such as “Covid isn’t a big deal since you’re vaccinated; don’t worry too much, it probably won’t affect you too much if you get it” but also “make SURE you wear your mask and don’t breathe on anyone and for Todd’s sake, please don’t let anyone breathe on you!” Is it the fact that she hasn’t been in school for a month? Is it the fact that “school” could mean home/not home at any given time?) so I had to bribe her to even get her out the door yesterday morning. The bribe is not the satisfaction/guilt part, although perhaps it should be; it worked. I bribed her with a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (we are reverting to a “desserts on weekends” kind of schedule) AND with “something fun.” (She claims she never ever gets to do what SHE wants, all she does is go to SCHOOL.) I told her she could pick anything non-screen related, and she picked playing Barbies together. Sigh. I haaaaaaaate pretend play. It is the worst. But I agreed, and after school we played Barbies for 30 minutes exactly. Which is nothing. A tiny amount of my day. Then, when we were doing our bedtime mindfulness routine, and we got to the part about “what were you grateful for today?”, Carla said, “I was grateful that I got to play Barbies with Mommy.” No hesistation. Awwww. What a worthwhile way to spend our time together! But also: guilt, because I HATE playing Barbies. And yet it is such a simple way to make my beloved child so happy! Ugh ugh ugh. Well, I am not promising anything, but I will TRY to do more Barbies with Carla. 
  • A thing it turns out I DO enjoy is playing Sleeping QueensDo you have this game? I ordered it on a “my child is not doing enough math” whim last weekend and it is QUITE fun. There’s a video on the product page that describes how to play; it seems much more complicated than it is. And it’s a much faster-paced game than I anticipated. The basic object is that you want to get as many queens as possible. To get the queens, or to keep your opponent from getting queens, or to prevent your opponent from getting your queens, you need special cards. Your only chance to get the special cards is to discard a card from your hand. And – here’s the math element – you can draw more cards if you have an equation. So if you have cards in the values of 1, 5, and 7, you can only discard one of them and pick up one new card. But if you have 2, 5, and 7, you can make an equation and discard all three; then you can draw three cards. If you have/know a child in the young elementary age group, I highly recommend it. Because the number cards only go up to ten, the math is quite easy for Carla (although there’s no harm in keeping up with basic addition and subtraction), but it would be ideal for someone who is just learning to add/subtract. We also do multiplication, when it’s possible. I really wish there were an expansion pack with higher-value numbers. Anyway, I find it to be a really fun game and we have already played at least a dozen times. BONUS: This is a game that you can easily play with two people, which means that we don’t have to wait for Daddy to be home. 
  • I made my first foray into baked oatmeal. I am a little reluctant to post about it, because I didn’t love it. And I WANT to love it. It was both better than I thought it would be and worse than I hoped. But I think I chose the wrong (for me) recipe. It called for coconut oil, which – to me (though not to my husband) – ending up being the predominant flavor. I wanted an APPLE flavor. Also, I don’t think I put in enough nuts. The nuts were my favorite part. I need to do more experimentation before I can make a firm decision about not liking it. I think I will try this recipe next. 
  • I had a mildly negative interaction the other day that is still gnawing at me. It’s one of those things where the situation felt very fraught, almost purely because I am overly concerned with what people think of me. And the rest of it was fraught because it involved Covid, and I am caught in a wildly swinging internal pendulum of “you can’t control it and you need to find some way to live with it without forcing your child to be a miserable hermit” and “it is perfectly reasonable to continue to take precautions for the sake of those who aren’t protected/in order to keep Carla in school ” and “if you allow Carla to go to school, then how is this situation different” and “it is okay to have boundaries and limits even if they seem arbitrary; everything seems arbitrary right now” and “you and Carla are both vaccinated, you really can relax a little sheesh” and “arrrrrggghhhhhh.” I fervently wish I were the type of person who a) knows the exact right thing to do in any given situation and b) doesn’t care what other people think of me. I am neither of those people though, I am me. And as much as I try to be breezy, breeziness is not in my nature. And I DO care what people think, and I hate that about myself but I do.
  • Totally related to the above point: It is not fair to present a situation in one way, with clear parameters, and then to change the parameters in the moment. It is especially not okay to then pressure people into accepting the new parameters. 
  • Gah.
  • We have a new addition to our Dinner Plan this week. My husband requested Taco Tuesday. I think you know that I will never turn down a request for tacos. This is the beauty of planning out fewer meals than one intends to eat. You can just slide tacos right into the mix, no biggie. It is especially helps when you haven’t yet made it to the grocery store.
  • That reminds me that I have my check-up this morningIt is a totally normal check-up, so it should be fine. But it’s with a new doctor, in a new office, in a new location. So I am a little anxious about all of those things. Will I find the office okay? Will I get there on time? Will I like the doctor? Also, will I meet her for the first time while naked? That’s never fun. And then I have to do it all over again in a couple of weeks, because my PCP is retiring and I had to find a new one. (Hopefully I won’t have to meet her naked, though.)

Well, that’s it. I am already painfully aware that today is going to be a grind to get through; my 3:00 a.m. alertness has eroded into fatigue. But blogging is a much better way to spend the early hours of the morning than tossing and turning next to my blissfully sleeping husband, waiting futilely for sleep to bless me with its presence. 

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We have snow this morning, our second proper snow of the season. The check-up I thought was scheduled for today is, in fact, scheduled for tomorrow. Which means my grocery shopping is now also moved to tomorrow. Most significantly, my child is back in school. I am hoping that everything goes as well as possible and that the kids are all in school for a good long time. See how breezy I am? SO BREEZY.

Dinners for the Week of January 10-January 16

  • Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon and Green Beans: I wonder if I could substitute a chicken breast for my husband, who’s not wild about salmon? This was indeed good, and I indeed made a chicken breast for my husband.
  • Roasted Garlic Balsamic Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Balsamic Brussels Sprouts: I am going to attempt to combine these two recipes into a sheet pan dinner. Do the recipes recommend different temperatures? Yes. Am I still going to do it? Yes, I am. P.S. I almost never pan-sear anything before I put it in the oven. An extra dish to wash? Grease splatter all over my stove? No thank you. Works out just fine. 
  • Spicy Fish Taco Bowls: My husband suggested fish tacos recently, and this is an old favorite that we haven’t eaten in awhile. Plus, as everyone knows, if you put a taco in a bowl it tastes just as good. I will obviously omit the cherry tomatoes from the mango pico.
  • Sesame Soy Chicken Bowls: Two bowls in one week?!?! Yes, folks, I am going there. This recipe is new to me, but it sounds yummy. 
  • Air Fryer Parmesan Chicken with Broccoli and Hasselback Sweet Potatoes: I really don’t think my air fryer is big enough to hold chicken and broccoli at the same time… but maybe I could roast the broccoli? Or maybe I will just steam it as I usually do? Let’s leave it for Future Me to sort out. I also reserve the right to forget completely about the Hasselback sweet potatoes. But they look so intriguing! 
  • Lentil Soup: This is an Ina Garten recipe and everything she touches is magic, so I kind of want to try it out. Our current weather is IDEAL lentil soup weather. Maybe I will make a loaf of miracle no-knead bread as well. Maybe not. I am breezy. This lentil soup was a disappointment. It required a LOT of chopping, even though I bought pre-chopped mirepoix from Trader Joe’s. And it just didn’t taste like anything. I tried some of the modifications suggested in the comments, like adding a parmesan rind for a long time and adding some paprika. Nothing really helped. It was warm and hearty though and it made one million bowls worth of soup, so I will be eating it for A While. The very best it tasted was when you slathered a slice of warm sourdough in butter and dipped it into the soup. Then it was very good.

That’s enough meals for the week. I’m going to try to wrap my mind around this “found time” I have today, and make a cup of tea and try to focus on revisions (which, so far, involve a lot of writing, not that I need ANY EXTRA WORDS). Maybe I’ll do some laundry. Look at me being so breezy.

How breezy are you today? Are you as breezy as I am?

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Compare my lovely, carefree Wednesday morning with Carla to this one, during which my voice grew firmer and louder the later we got, and I repeated myself a hundred different times about a hundred different things, and I got in a really great workout of my sighing muscles, and we left the house at the time we were supposed to be AT school and it was only at that very moment of leaving, when Carla had FINALLY tied her shoes, that I noticed she had a hole in one knee of her leggings. (She went to school with the hole.) At one point, Carla said, “Don’t YELL at me, Mommy!” and I wanted to yell, “THIS IS NOT YELLING. WE HAVEN’T GOTTEN TO YELLING YET THROUGH A MASSIVE ACT OF WILL POWER.” Oh well. You can’t win them all. 

The skin of my face has also decided once again to turn on me. You will recall that I made the grave error of experimenting with anti-aging lotions and potions, and, after ONE application of such, my skin hissed at me that I WILL age and if I ever so much as LOOK at a product containing retinol again I will find myself wishing I never even had a face. I returned to the very gentle products I have been using for YEARS without incident, and, eventually, my skin calmed down. But today I awoke with red, raw, itchy cheeks, and the underside of my bottom lip is itchy and so puffy I look as though I’m recovering from a botched lip implant. (Though I can assure you that I will not be experimenting with fillers and Botox, based on the reaction I got from NEUTROGENA PRODUCTS.) I don’t know WHAT the deal is – I have not deviated from my routine, nor have I used any new detergents or pressed my face into any unusual fibers – but man am I glad that I can wear a mask in public to keep my lip from view. 

Mask usage is still robust in my area, but every time I venture into a public space, more and more people are bare-facing it. Devil-may-care that I am, I went to BOTH Target and the grocery store today. Inside! I’d say a good thirty percent of the people in Target were bare faced, including some employees. There were fewer people without masks at the grocery store, but SOME, which was shocking after seeing maybe a scant handful of unmasked customers in the past year. I understand, logically, that it is okay to go without a mask now that I am fully vaccinated. Even if a bunch of unvaccinated people are also going maskless (as we all know they probably are). The science is very clear that I should be FINE. That I am unlikely to contract Covid-19, and that I am unlikely to pass it on to my daughter, who is herself unlikely to contract Covid-19 and, if she does manage to do so, is unlikely to suffer from a severe case. I know all this logically. But it’s very hard to counter an entire year-plus of vigilant mask-wearing, an entire year-plus of purposeful separation from other humans, an entire year-plus of focusing solely on keeping my family safe through the power of masks and distance and isolation with simple logic. 

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My grocery store seems, on the surface, to be back to pre-pandemic normal – as much yeast and 409 as anyone can ask for – and yet, several items that I have had on my list for weeks remain elusive. My favorite brand of pickles (Clausen; you can get spears but I don’t want spears). The jars of Old El Paso taco seasoning (they do have the packets, but I want the jars. And yes, I know it’s probably better to make my own, and I can and I have, but I just LIKE this specific seasoning and it makes life easier). Eggo frozen pancakes (there were NO frozen pancakes at all this week; nor were there any French toast sticks – just a big yawning gap in the freezer section). Rose’s lime juice is completely out of stock.

I don’t like it. Yes, I acknowledge that these are very specific/specific-to-my-family items, and probably have nothing to do with the pandemic. And yet I haven’t been able to find them in at least two weeks. In fact, it’s probably been longer than that; it’s only once I can’t find something multiple weeks in a row that I really start noticing its absence. 

Perhaps I am feeling a bit anxious given that we are now a year from when the pandemic began. Last March, we had very few cases in my state… but the virus was blowing up in New York and California and Washington and Europe. Friends were cancelling their spring break plans. I had already begun strategically bulking up our stores of emergency supplies. We were preparing to maybe not return to in-person school after spring break. Paper towels were already becoming scarce on the shelves. The echo of those memories is stronger right now, even as spring peeks her cheery head above the winter gloom and news of increasing numbers of vaccinations and new guidelines for gathering together make everything feel full of hope and promise. Hopefully, with time and distance and rising vaccination rates, those echoes will grow fainter still.

But as far as grocery shopping goes, this is how it will be forever, I think: some perfectly ordinary shortage makes me feel disproportionate alarm, triggering a must-hoard-things response. It requires work to squelch this reaction, and sometimes we will be unable to resist the siren song of readily available staples. Today, I was successful. I did not even buy any flour or yeast, even though they were abundant. What I would really like applause for is walking out of the store without olive oil. It was on a HUGE sale – basically, buy one get one half off – and yet I left without even a single bottle. I have FOUR FULL BOTTLES in my cupboard already. I did not need more. I did not buy more.

The only other thing I really wanted that wasn’t available was white asparagus. But there was lots of fresh baby green asparagus in stock, so I bought that instead. Not quite the same thing, but we make do with what we have.

Dinners for the Week of March 9-15

  • Spargelsuppe with Rosemary Garlic Focaccia: I have been nostalgic for spargelsuppe ever since my husband and I ate it a million times during our anniversary trip to Germany and Austria… so I am going to try to make some this week. How can it possibly live up to authentic Bavarian spargelsuppe, or frankly, to my memory? Especially if I have only GREEN asparagus to work with? (Side note: I re-read my post about our trip and now am PINING for travel. Any travel! To any place!) (Will I ever feel comfortable on a plane again? Will I ever want to visit public spaces with other people? Will I ever again experience the joy/pain of walking many miles a day through a European city?)

Follow Up: The asparagus soup was fine. Good, even. But it was not authentic Bavarian spargelsuppe. Well. If I can ever find white asparagus, I will try again; the white asparagus (which makes me think of Bunnicula) is supposedly milder. The focaccia WHICH I DID FINALLY MAKE was a huge disappointment, largely due to user error. This user erred by not reading the recipe in advance, so I had neither the correct flours nor the right size pan. I powered through, though, and the result was edible. But it was much denser than focaccia is supposed to be. I want big pockets of air, and soft, fluffy bread. My version had neither. I also messed up the application of the roasted garlic. I think maybe because my dough was not right? Or maybe I needed to really poke it down into the dough? It all either burned or fell off the top of the focaccia. It is unlikely that I will buy either whole wheat flour or the correct sized pan at any point, so I need to find a new recipe.

  • Lemon Roasted Salmon with Sweet Potatoes and Broccoli: This one-pan recipe just smacks of nutrients, doesn’t it? I fear that means it will be first to be jettisoned from the list if one night I don’t feel like cooking. I discovered some time ago that broccolini is not – for me – worth the price. Too much stringy stalk for the cost, I say. So I will swap out broccoli.
  • Skillet Enchiladas: I saw this on Instagram (I follow three categories of accounts on Instagram: books, workouts, and FOOD) and I immediately bookmarked it. YUM. Of course, I do not own a skillet. So I will be making these the old fashioned way, in a 9 x 13 pan in the oven. 
  • Szechuan Stir Fry: We haven’t had this in awhile and I am in the mood for stir fry.

This is a bit more ambitious than my recent dinner posts… but if I am in the MOOD to cook, then why not DO SO? (Because being in the mood NOW does not guarantee being in the mood later, Self. Have you learned nothing from your years of making dinner?)

What are you eating this week?

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What day is it, anyway? I have been off-kilter, day-wise, all week. And I just checked the date and was very surprised that it is somehow the 19th. I guess I think it should be Friday but also only November 15? Well. Time has taken on very strange and malleable properties this year. I should be accustomed to it, by now, but am very clearly NOT.

Last night was a 3:30 a.m. wake up night. I hate nights like that. They happen so frequently that I feel like I should have a better handle on them, or at least know how to get back to sleep. But somehow, in the dark, with the wind doing its best freight train impression outside my window, and the gate shrieking in protest, none of my getting-back-to-sleep techniques occurred to me at all. Instead, my brain decided to first fret extensively about the pandemic and how everything is so much worse than it was in March and yet no one seems to care, and so many people are dying and my loved ones have been spared so far but that extreme good fortune simply cannot hold for much longer. Well. I couldn’t go on thinking about THAT. So I forced my brain to choose a different line of thinking, and it decided to chart exactly how I am a failure, and how I am nearing forty and have not yet finished the book I have been working on for far too many years and how it is now too late and I should just give up in disgrace. Great second choice, brain. You dick.

This is when I pulled up Swistle’s archives on my phone and started reading old pre-Trump, pre-pandemic posts. Very cheerful and soothing. At around 5:00, I fell back to sleep.

That’s when I had a dream about being at some sort of ski resort where four little girls went sailing over a cliff and three of them died in a horrible, violent way. Really, truly gruesome. And in the dream, not only could I do nothing to help, but no one else seemed to register the horrific tragedy that had just happened in front of them, and everyone sort of shrugged and kept on skiing. Thanks, brain. 

So today I am fretful and draggy. Going to walk on the treadmill for a while would probably help, but the act of getting TO the treadmill seems unsurmountable. In terms of productivity level, I score a solid Low. I did have to go to Wal-Mart, for a “contact free” pickup, where I had to wait in a smallish area with another person for the staff member to go get my item. (A present for my niece. She lives in a different state, and I want to wrap her gifts and mail them to her because her mother does not need to wrap extra gifts.) (I do not need to wrap extra gifts either, but I have resigned myself to doing it as I have been doing for several years now. Grim it’s-not-really-as-big-an-imposition-as-it-feels-like face.) (I GET it. Sometimes it just much simpler – and MUCH less expensive! – to order from a website, often with free shipping, and have something shipped directly to your recipient rather than shipping it to your house, wrapping it, then paying to ship it to the recipient. And sometimes gift wrapping isn’t available through online retailers! I totally understand! Occasionally wrapping gifts on behalf of a family member is totally fine!) Then, after eleven minutes of standing around, counting the number of Wal-Mart staff members whose masks covered their mouths but not their noses (final count: 3 of 5), and telling two other staff members who approached me that yes, I was pretty sure I was already being helped, the staff person who’d gone to get items for me and the other shopper returned. He handed the other shopper his item. And then went to a shelf right beside where I was standing and fetched my item. Sigh. Well. I never considered Wal-Mart and efficient to be synonyms.

I was counting the minutes because I needed to get home for my microwave installation. (I made it home in time. And had enough time to wrap my niece’s gift and put it in a box to ship.) Turns out that our old microwave had been installed… badly, is the word I am coming up with. And it’s a good thing a) we never needed it repaired, because the way the previous owners installed it immediately voided the warranty and b) we never had a FIRE. Because they had “installed” it by cutting the wires of the microwave and basically hot-wiring it to the wall. Good times. But! The installation company put in an actual outlet and installed my new microwave correctly and it works and looks basically the same as the old one, so I am pleased. 

(The microwave installation people, by the way, were very nice. They wore masks. I kept the doors open while they were here and also wore a mask. They were gone in about forty minutes. But I asked one of them if they’d been extra busy during the pandemic, you know, just to make awkward conversation, and he said yes, and then went on a [very] little rant about how so many people are going SO OVERBOARD with precautions, and using too much hand sanitizer and wiping everything down, and people just need to chill out a little. Omg.) (After they left, I kept the doors open until the frightful wind started slamming them for me and I also washed my hands and wiped down the entire microwave and everything else they possibly could have touched.) 

What else can I fret to you about?

Oh yes. In Completely NOT Important In The Grand Scheme, Or Even In The Small Scheme, Really, Frets: I am worrying about Santa gifts. 

Let’s take a step back here and offer context: I grew up with Santa. I believed in Santa much longer than most children, in part because my parents were magicians at making Santa gifts appear beneath my watchful eyes, and in part because the magic was so special to me. My parents always gave us gifts, but Santa would give us the big, splashy gifts. A new bike. A Barbie Dream House. A new guitar. A kayak. Skis. (These were not all gifts for me, but various big Santa gifts I remember various members of my family getting over the year.) Anyway, they were the most exciting gifts. And it was such a delight to venture into our living room and see all these fabulous things that Santa had managed to sneak down our chimney. I have always sort of thought of Carla’s Santa gifts the same way. Santa got her a play kitchen one year. Santa brought her a Barbie Dream House a couple of years ago. Big, splashy gifts that really wow her.

My husband did not have the same experience growing up. He has never seen the gifts for Carla as “Santa gives the big gift,” but more along the lines of, it makes more sense to have a Barbie Dream House appear as from nowhere on Christmas morning rather than sit, wrapped, under the tree. And while we have discussed our different views on Santa gifts, and have very carefully said to one another that we know our own personal experience is not The One True Way, neither have we come up with a Defined Way to proceed.

With that context in mind:

As I mentioned in the Gift Guide post, we were planning on getting Carla a sewing machine for Christmas. In my mind, this was going to be her Big Gift from Santa.

But this year, another family member also had the idea to get Carla a sewing machine. And it’s a very generous gift, and very appropriate from this person. But now I am agonizing over giving up our “claim” on the sewing machine because a) now what does SANTA get for Carla? and b) what if the sewing machine doesn’t get here on time? Because this person has a lot going on this year, some very out-of-the-ordinary things that are occupying a lot of time and energy… Plus… even in normal years, this person has a very spontaneous, last-minute type of personality and gifts often arrive the day of a birthday/holiday/event or, sometimes, after the fact. In a year when shipping times and product availability are unreliable, I admit that I am extra concerned about gifts arriving in a timely manner. (That doesn’t give a lot of credit to the family member, I know, which is unfair.)

This is good practice in serenity and flexibility, isn’t it? I can only control my own actions, I cannot control the actions of others. Carla does not know she is supposed to get a sewing machine; she has not even asked for one. So if it doesn’t work out for Christmas this year, we could always get one for her next Christmas, or for her birthday. It will be fine. And, of course, Christmas is not ABOUT presents. It is about family togetherness, and the joy and satisfaction of generosity, and gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. (Yes, I realize Christmas foremost has significant religious meaning, but we are not particularly religious so it is much more of a secular holiday around here.)

And yet the anxious, catastrophize-y part of me is worrying and worrying this not-really-a-problem-problem to death, because I feel like there is tremendous extra pressure to Make Christmas Special this year. What if this is our last Christmas on earth? my doom-and-gloomful brain intones mournfully. What if one or all of us get sick and die and this is our final Christmas together? I realize, fully, that EVERY Christmas has the potential to be our last Christmas because terrible things happen all the time. But that very cheering reminder that this year is, in fact, no different from any other is not as comforting as one would hope.  Instead, it has plunged me deeper into despair and ignited within me a desire to counter that despair with retail therapy. A fleeting and overall ineffective therapy, yet a very appealing one. Except I don’t know what Big Splashy Gift to buy in place of a sewing machine, and I don’t know that I can get my husband on board even if I find one. 

I feel stupid and petty, stressing about these very inconsequential and privileged things when there are so many BIGGER and MORE IMPORTANT things to stress about. But that’s what this is, right? At least partly, it’s a reaction to how helpless I feel about everything else going on in the world. I am trying to regain control over my own little corner, and even that is proving difficult. 

I cannot be the only one wasting energy and angst on ridiculous things, right? RIGHT?

Okay, while you tell me about the inconsequential (or very consequential!) frets you are having right now, I am going to try to climb out of the pit of despair I have mired myself in. Or maybe take a nap.

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Well, yesterday’s sunshine has been washed away by an hours-long thunderstorm that woke me at 6:00 am and seems to have settled right over my house for the duration. It is very dark and wet with intermittent startling bursts of lightning and the grumpy follow-up of growling thunder and I am trying Very Hard to tamp down my School Is Actually Starting Anxiety. So I am retreating into happy memories – forcibly, this time – and still dreamily eating my way through my childhood summers. The food nostalgia is real strong, folks. 

Let’s talk about food! 

Today, for Labor Day, we are having ribs (it will be very fun and soggy to grill them if the downpour continues) and lemony potato salad.

(As an aside, potato salad is one of my Family Tradition Foods. We had it several times a year when I was growing up: New Year’s Day, Super Bowl Sunday, Fourth of July, Labor Day. My mom makes the BEST potato salad – it’s got a mustard base so it’s a nice sunny yellow, and it’s speckled with little bits of pickles and celery and red peppers and also – hork – hard boiled egg. My mom performs some sort of magical chopping technique on the egg so that it becomes dust and I barely even notice it. The potato salad is amazing and when I go to visit her, she makes a big batch of it and I eat it for breakfast. There is NOTHING that beats my mom’s cold potato salad for breakfast, you have to trust me. But even though she hand-wrote a copy of the recipe for me, I cannot make it so that it tastes the way her potato salad tastes. There must be something special she does, or maybe she doesn’t measure the ingredients as exactly as the recipe implies, or maybe she includes some sort of special ingredient like – hork – love. Whatever it is, I cannot replicate the flavor. So I have found my own potato salad recipe that I love but which tastes NOTHING like my mom’s. So even though it is Tradition to eat potato salad on Labor Day, it doesn’t really feel like tradition, because we’re not eating the traditional potato salad. Have I used the words tradition and potato salad often enough to create semantic satiation?) 

(My family is still sort of floundering to find our own Family Tradition Foods. Even for Thanksgiving and Christmas, we haven’t really settled on specific meals that are so good we want to eat them every year forever and ever amen. And that’s okay! I think variety is wonderful! But I also have such fond food-related memories of holidays growing up. The foods we ate at specific times throughout the year took on such significance – and eating something like my mom’s potato salad can bring so much warmth and happiness flooding back that I would love to create the same kind of thing for Carla. Of course, there’s the added hiccup that Carla doesn’t EAT anything, so…)

(Family Tradition Foods must be a thing for other families, too, yes? Do you have any that you remember with fondness? Or horkitude, I suppose – I’d be interested to know about the Special Food your dad made every September First that only he liked to eat, or, like, the hot dish Aunt Violetta used to bring to every family barbecue that you all pretended to love, but would dump behind the shrubbery at the earliest opportunity, or whatever.)

Back to the Labor Day holiday pigging: my husband made these AMAZING brownie crinkle cookies for dessert. We may have eaten some yesterday already. You know. To make sure they weren’t poisonous, and weren’t going to ruin the holiday or anything. They are so fudgy and delicious. You should make them immediately. 

Here’s what else is on this week’s menu. Spoiler alert: it’s full of comfort food.

Dinners for the Week of September 7-13

As I have already mentioned, several times, Carla is starting in-person school this week. She goes to a very small private school that has expended significant money and thought into how to make in-person school work safely for all involved. We feel hopeful and grateful and that this is the best decision we can make for our family at this time… but I am still nervous. Any and all distractions, especially but not limited to food-related memories or your dinner plans for this week, would be MOST welcome and appreciated. 

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Let’s pretend that we don’t care one way or another about the outcome, and let’s act like we are confident that we could calmly and resolutely march forward into the coming school year whatever it looks like, and let’s denude the entire situation of ALL its anxiety and stress and fear for the world and our own particular children, and let’s talk brightly and cheerfully about Back to School Shopping When We May Not Know Where School Will Take Place.

(Edited to add: We are currently anticipating sending Carla back to in-person school. Things could change; the school year doesn’t begin for a few weeks yet.)

So! My first question is about backpacks. How long do backpacks last? And, even if they are Sturdy Enough to last for multiple years, how long do they last from like a… user-preference standpoint? My husband says that Carla’s backpack – a Pottery Barn find of the Sturdy type – is totally fine for her again this year. She’s had it for three years, though, and – while it is still in Good Shape, it is looking a little dingy. My husband also reminds me that her backpack is a child’s size, and that he thinks a full size backpack would be too big for her. Maybe he’s right. But… at what age/size does a child need to pgrade to a full size backpack? I am not going into Pottery Barn kids anytime soon to compare sizes or have her try them on, so I realize we can only speak hypothetically here. Or perhaps – I am hoping – from experience. My own experience with backpacks is that I think I got a new one every year? I could be misremembering – conflating the Extreme Excitement I felt during the possibly fewer times I DID get a new backpack with general New School Supplies Excitement. (Oh man, is there anything as delightful as the purchase of a new TrapperKeeper and a colorful array of folders to snap inside it? I don’t know that many things in adulthood properly measure up.) Anyway: When it comes to backpacks for Carla, is it time for an update?

I am also wondering about school clothes. Carla’s school has a no-jeans dress code, with some other stipulations that I find less difficult to adhere to than “no jeans.” But I am not particularly inclined to buy her a whole closet full of new dresses at the moment. (See how I deftly sidestepped talking about WHY I am reluctant to do so?) She has a whole closet full of dresses, many of which still fit. And those that are too short, well, it’s harder to care about that sort of thing when you might only interact with other students over Zoom. (Whoops – got a little too close to The Subject We Are Avoiding there for a minute.)

She does need new pajamas, though. Her current jammies show off three or four inches of shoulder and wrist.  That’s not technically a Back to School Shopping Item, though.

What about shoes? Will there be a lot of shoe-wearing in our futures? WHO CAN PREDICT.

I think we are all set on water bottles. We have two, even if one is pretty battered. And we have masks galore (my dear friend, who said she would make Carla a mask, made her TEN MASKS and then made me a mask as well with the extra fabric she is a SAINT), so I am not worrying about facial protection.

Carla’s school provides all day-to-day school supplies, like crayons and paper and scissors and such (yes, I know we are deeply, deeply fortunate), so we don’t need to buy any of those things. Plus, we are All Set on that kind of thing at home from the end of the last school year.

Part of the thing about Back to School Shopping, though, is that it helps build excitement for the school year. I mean, that’s how I remember it. Getting new clothes and new pencils with perfectly sharpened tips and notebooks filled with fresh, crisp sheets of paper was all tied up in that thrill of nerves about the new school year beginning. Even if we have replaced the delicious anticipation about which teacher we’ll get and which kids will be in our class and which wing of the school we’ll be in with – skipping briskly over stressful subjects la la la – other things, we should still get to be excited about a new year, no? Maybe a First Day of School dress is in order? Maybe a new backpack or a new water bottle WOULD be a good use of money? Maybe I could get her a bunch of erasers in fun shapes and pencils in fun patterns and hand sanitizer in cloying scents and cute fidget toys? If they aren’t exactly necessary, maybe they would HELP nonetheless?

It feels like we’re all in this endless holding pattern. And, okay, even once Decisions have been made — and I know that What Happens With School has already been determined for a lot of people — life still isn’t The Way It Was. So all these routines and seasonal purchases and annual Things We Look Forward To just… aren’t there right now. I think I’m leaning toward getting a few things, just for the sake of (fake) normalcy, fun, and creating joy where we can. If there’s anything on the list, it should be those three things.

Plus, I have my own personal Back to School Shopping List, and let me tell you, it starts with tequila and ends with gin.

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