taking it easy in the chaos

I’m sitting with E on the couch on a rainy Saturday afternoon. He’s watching Wild Kratts while I write on my laptop. C is napping.

E asks me for a sandwich because it’s 3:30pm and, aside from dinner, meals are requested at super random times. He mostly wants to live on cheese sandwiches and tortilla chips, but I’ll sneak some fruit or veggies on there for him to ignore. On my way to the kitchen, I pick up several dishes from the dining room table so as to make my trip as productive as possible. An important trick to this whole solo management of everything is: no wasted motion like walking from one room to another empty-handed.

I remember when I was a clueless waitress at 19 years old, the restaurant’s manager sat in my patio section, sipping on a glass of wine while watching me work. At the end of my shift, he pointed out how many times I passed stacks of dirty dishes on tables and trays without bringing them back into the kitchen. He was a jerk, but he was also right- I was so focused on getting orders placed and delivered that I was creating quite an unsightly and unnecessary mess. As a 46-year-old solo mom, I have so deeply learned this lesson by now. Unfortunately, it also means staying On Your Game practically all minutes of the day if you don’t want the housework to snowball and then eat you alive.

In the chaos of lockdown, I long for that satisfying feeling of the house being clean, like when I sigh with relief after the cleaning lady has been here. I miss her. Back when I had full-time child care, I would reset the house almost daily and the cleaning lady took care of actual cleaning.

These days, the pillows in my living room have not found their true homes in weeks due to the creation of forts that evolve daily. There are many crumbs on the living room carpet, despite my initial rule that no one should eat in front of the TV (that one went by the wayside early on). There are random toys in random places- books scattered, legos underfoot, evidence of home school activities cover half of the dining room table. There is ALWAYS clean laundry piled on the guest bed waiting to be folded and put away. I’m one meal behind in cleaning the kitchen and the counter tops are not visible. Also- what’s for dinner???

Even more annoyingly, there are stacks of boxes clogging up the back bedroom, waiting to be taken back downstairs to our storage area, including Christmas ornaments (sob). And disorganized piles of giveaway clothes as both kids recently moved up a size. This stuff takes up mental and physical space and I can’t seem to prioritize getting it moved (maybe now that I’ve announced it I can get it done?).

The question is- how to get ahead of it when there are two little whirlwinds quickly undoing my work? It feels like every time I’m getting into the groove, it’s time to prepare another meal.

Do I need a plan for this? Lower expectations? Break it down into steps? Focus on the kitchen and bathroom and let everything else go? I really don’t want to engage in Sisyphean tasks, especially when time is extra precious.

Life is messy right now.

Clearly I need to get the kids to help! And to accept that the end result may not be perfect or even helpful.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to incorporate more moments when I’m doing nothing.

The other night, I was sitting in the living room with the kids after cleaning up dinner. They weren’t doing anything special, just bopping around on the furniture, listening to music. I happened to look out the window because it was extra windy and the trees were swaying violently with the sun setting in the background. I spaced out completely. I didn’t decide to- it just happened. The kids bounced and played and I stayed fixed on my outdoor nature show for like five minutes. It felt so restful and meditative to do nothing, to let go of anticipating whatever needed to be done next. I don’t think I’ve ever stared out an ordinary window as entertainment.

It felt at least as good as a pedicure. This really redefines my idea of a “getaway.”

So- are we all safe and healthy right now?  Yes- and that’s more than good enough.

I’m wishing the same for you, and hope you’re going easy on yourselves right now!






running in my apartment

My manager recently mentioned to me that she was walking 2.5 miles per day in her compact NYC apartment. That really impressed me. Granted, she doesn’t have two small people to block her path and ask for snacks but, still- it planted a seed.

I’ve been grateful to have the double stroller that I acquired at the beginning of quarantine because it allows me to get out even if no one is in the mood. Strap them in and give them trail mix with M&Ms in it. I’ve done up to four miles with it and it’s a smooth ride. But yesterday, when I felt like my body really needed it, it was snowing. Again. And I was just not up for the double stroller AND the snow AND the cold. And, gosh, the virus. Because let’s be honest, every outing includes some level of stress about sanitizer, surfaces, and who’s touching what.

So, I thought- I’m going to try running in the apartment. I can do a loop, thanks to two doors in my bedroom; a loop I’ve mainly used to pace while on important phone calls. I’d never tried running it, because why would I????? I used to have 9 hours a day of child care (sob). I was also hoping my kids would chase me because they needed exercise too.

So I put on my sports bra under my jammies (not really jammies but these days I only wear clothes I can exercise or sleep in) and some running shoes that I hadn’t used outside in a long time. I started a workout in MapMyRun, wondering if GPS would even be able to tell if I had left my couch. I even put in my earbuds to listen to a talk by Tara Brach.

The kids ran with me for a while. C was giggling and running in her Crocs, E was in socks and soon twisted his ankle, and after about 7 minutes they were both crying and whining so I put them on the tablet. On one of my loops, I stopped to take a lasagna out of the oven (I can’t say I’ve ever done this in the middle of a run). I noticed that my postpartum incontinence is a thing even on a slow interior run, but that only made it seem more legit.

My only injury was clipping the doorway with my shoulder a couple of times but when you’re running like 1 mile/hour, there is no pain. (PS I am not exaggerating my pace to be funny- I actually did half a mile in 30 minutes.)

Toward the end, I noticed that my perspective was changing- my place felt bigger, fresher, and I had the sensation of coming home after a long walk. Like I was seeing my place with new eyes, in the context of the larger world. I felt taller.

Survival strategies are important right now. Desperate times call for desperate measures! I would do it again, but hopefully spring arrives before that’s necessary.

We got the news yesterday that schools are closed through the end of the school year. I absorbed the news and kept going. It was expected. It’s hard for me to conceptualize the future right now, when we’re so very busy in the present. But I did find myself pausing on how to tell Evan that he wouldn’t be going back to kindergarten.

I ended up telling him today, when we were out romping in the blessedly uninhabited woods on an unmarked trail along a river in the warm sun. He paused and said happily, “but I’ll still see my class every day on Zoom!!!” Sigh of relief. He’s lucky to have a wonderful teacher and, dare I say, home life (read: lots of screen time). He’s also much more focused on his 6th birthday, which is only one month away.

Lately, these two are going by “Henry” and “Zoe,” which I guess are characters from a show they watch. Henry and Zoe drive me nuts and also make each day delightful in some way.

I’m off to clean my disaster of a house and, you know, do weird, earthy quarantine-inspired things like set up to brew kombucha, feed my sourdough starter, and make a vegetable broth out of veggie scraps. Maybe get some seeds planted in cups.

Thanks for reappearing out of the woodwork to read and comment on my blog, friends. It’s been a long time since I’ve written and I’m happy you’re still out there reading. I’m sending awkwardly-long hugs to each of you. Lots of love xoxoxo

henry and zoe



A typical pandemic weekday

I’ve wanted to write forever but guess what- there’s a reason you don’t hear from any solo parents lately. Like- I haven’t read an excellent single parent perspective essay since the pandemic started. And that’s because there is no time, energy, or bandwidth. We are slammed.

I just finished eating dinner, alone, because I mis-timed the snacks and my little housemates are not hungry, playing with magnatiles around the corner from me in the living room. Thank goodness they have each other.

Then I realized my laptop was in reach. And charged. And no one is looking at me or asking for anything. Go go go

I also realized that this day is pretty representative of our lives lately and someday I’ll want to remember. So, let’s start with my 7:45am wakeup.

I woke up out of a dream- my company was going under, and I had been tasked with figuring out how to phase the layoffs. I was collaborating with my friend Janet and we’d been given very little information. We kept getting calls from the company president, barking out a few details and then rushing off to another meeting. I was relieved to wake up (my company isn’t going under).

It was snowing. A maddening, mid-April, post-daffodils snow. Accumulating on the little green shoots and buds.

Chloe is newly night weaned, so she eagerly looks forward to “shay-shay when the sun shines.” In fact, sometimes she puts up a fuss at 5am which is pre-sunshine and starts kicking me and her brother, so I round up and give her the goods. Most often, though, she wakes at 6am, exactly with the sunrise, and I have more milk than she can even handle, and she rolls over with a full belly and goes right back to sleep, giving me an hour or so to do whatever most needs my attention.

On this morning, though, I had been up for two hours in the night, eating cereal and reading about the world which is never satisfying or enjoyable. So I wanted to let myself sleep. Sleep is everything right now. Sleep is the secret.

Evan got up and started playing with his new remote-control car, C with her new magnetic train (Easter gifts from our upstairs neighbors that sat in the closet for two days before opening). I think I showered briefly. I let C prepare my coffee by spooning the coffee into the filter (messy). She also served herself yogurt with “cherries” (blueberry jam) (also messy). I fried some eggs and made toast. While they ate at their little table in the living room (moved in front of the TV for last night’s Elmo’s Playdate, which we missed because I couldn’t find the right channel), I scanned my emails, my schedule for the day, and E’s schoolwork for the day.

They graduated to building a pillow fort, which is their go-to activity when no screen is on. E finished it and called it the Chillax Cuddle Zone (lots of cuddling is required lately). It seemed like a good place to kick off the school day, so we piled in with my laptop and started with the daily school announcement video. Every day, this 4th-grade girl says, “I pledge of allegiance, to the flag…” and it drives me nuts. Otherwise, cute- there are birthdays, jokes, and inspiring messages.

Then E filled out his attendance form, adding about 30 exclamation points to his first and last name. (he also added them to my email address and the form wouldn’t go through so we had to delete them…)

We did the question of the day, “What is the nicest thing you’ve ever done for someone?” E’s answer: “I brought a picture for my bus driver.” He always finishes with “the end.”

Then we looked through the slides of potential content for the day. I’m telling you, there is an insane amount of work in there to choose from. I can’t even describe it without getting stressed. I’m lucky if we complete one thing and upload it to the kindergarten padlet (today we did…nothing).

At 9:30, E gets on his kindergarten Zoom on my laptop, which means I can’t do much work but I did have a call with my boss at 10, occasionally emerging from my bedroom to find out why someone was crying. At 10:30, I put on Zumba, which is Facebook Lived from C’s school Zumba teacher, and my kids almost never actually do it but we like to hear the music. In between, I tried to have them do a project that E’s teacher sent in the mail- two coffee filters that you’re supposed to color with blue and green, then squirt with a spray bottle and paste to a piece of construction paper for Earth Day. Both of them started crying and were unwilling to do it so I shifted gears. You can’t transition them too quickly or it falls apart.

Next I got C dressed, which required some cajoling, and then it was time for her Zoom call. I quickly looked up what was required: draw a big E and little e on a piece of paper and get little one-inch pieces of paper and glue. Then I confirmed the Zoom link, there are so so many (some days she has two). Then I got her started and left the room.

From my office, I heard the teacher say, “Buenos dias, Chloe, cómo estás?” and she actually answered “muy bien,” which she never, ever does when I’m in the room. Mental note to always leave the room. Meanwhile, Evan expressed having no choice but to get on his tablet. OK.

Somehow he has learned the tablet inside and out and knows how to download (free) apps. I am wise enough to limit his access to the most kid-friendly, tame stuff, but I’m also kind of horrified that he’s playing video games and downloading games within games and is getting dangerously savvy. (e.g. I took YouTube off but he has a workaround)

After her Zoom call, I set them up to watch the replay of Elmo’s Playdate from yesterday and at some point Evan came to tell me it was below his age level and could he please go back to video games. Yes.

I delivered snacks and water. And then lunch. And then we decided to go outside because it was snowing and the snow was melting and they wanted to try this “snow chalk” a friend gave us. First, Evan’s feet were hot in his boots so he changed to shoes. Then his feet were wet and freezing and he wanted to come in. We were outside for about ten minutes. I can’t quite motivate to go running with the double stroller in this cold.

We watched a show together called “If I were an animal…”, while I ate some leftover quinoa from the night before. Then C was asking to shay-shay on the bed.

I nursed her down quickly. Some days recently I’ve been very nervous that she’s dropping her nap, because… she won’t nap. But today she slept for 3+ hours (!!!) and I got a bunch of work done and an important hour-long work call while Evan watched Wild Kratts. Miraculous. I worked until 5pm, made gnocchi, roasted parsnip and carrots, and collard greens, served it on three plates and they ate none of it because they had just had a snack. I drank a can of kombucha which is my best treat these days.

E is furious with me right now because I haven’t come to see his fort, and C just nursed and then started poking my keyboard very annoyingly so I put her on the floor and now she’s in distress so I have to go. [here I took a break to go sit with them and cuddle and inspect the fort and nurse and be present with them. They need it.]

It’s a lot. I’m dead tired every day at 6:30pm. I don’t have time to reflect on this now (or ever?). I hope you’re all keeping safe and well during this strange time. xo

Chloe: “You need to turn it off now!” (reaching for the power button)