Trapped Like a Duck in a Closet

I’ve been sitting here trying to think how to describe the feeling of last two weeks. The straw that broke the camel’s back accurately describes the sense of having this piled on top of so many other burdens that we’re crushed, but it utterly fails to capture the added sense of being trapped inside as the last dry, sunny days of summer slip away in a toxic haze of smoke.

When I have nightmares, they usually involve being trapped somewhere. I’m in a cage or a box or tightly restrained. I usually wake up trying to escape. Continue Reading >>

First Day of School

Once again, the coronavirus pandemic hits home — literally. On Wednesday, Benji started second grade at his new school… from his little closet-office in his bedroom.

First Day of School 2020 - Ready to start 2nd grade
Ready to learn.
First Day of School 2020 - Remote learning
Second grade online.

One interesting thing about this is that I get to be a fly on the wall if I want. I can hear what the teacher tells the class during synchronous learning time, and then follow up with him during asynchronous learning time. Asynchronous is a heck of a word for second graders to absorb, but the kids will learn what it means through direct experience. Continue Reading >>

Getting Ready for School

This summer, stretching both infinitely long and impossibly short, comes to a close this coming Wednesday, September 2, as Benji starts second grade. Most of the summer we spent uncertain about schooling — in person? hybrid? all online? — but assuming all online. A month or so ago the school district confirmed our assumptions, ending that speculation but opening up a world of further speculation about how all-online would work.

About 10 days ago, answers started coming in. At first, we eagerly consumed every message, discussed it, thought about the repercussions and how we’d deal with whatever information in contained. But what started as a trickle soon turned to a flood, a veritable deluge of messages, often several in a day coming from all different entities: the district, the school principal, the teacher, the school nurse… At one point, I counted over a dozen school-related emails in 10 days. Continue Reading >>

Stay-At-Home Sanity Strategies


This post got much longer than I originally thought, so I wanted to provide a quick table of contents/summary for navigating. You know it’s serious when my post needs navigation — but, doggone it, if I can’t write too many words on my own blog, where CAN I write too many words?!

Here’s the sections you’ll find in this post:


On March 4, I picked Benji up from school in the middle of the day after a parent volunteer tested positive for COVID-19. We blithely walked home, talking about how different the day had turned out than we expected and speculating about when Benji would go back to school. How little we knew the marathon that awaited us. Continue Reading >>

Benji in a Podcast Interview

A few weeks ago, my uncle put us in touch with a friend of his, Gill Frank, a postdoc at UVA. During this pandemic, Gill has started a podcast where he talks with kids about their experience of coronavirus. He interviewed Benji a couple weeks ago. (Remember the ice cream sandwich for breakfast incident? That bribery was for his cooperation with this interview.)

I was very interested to hear Benji talking with a different adult about his experience and thoughts — it reminded me that there’s a lot more going on inside his head than we, his parents, sometimes see. (Of course, since he narrates aloud 99% of his activities, there’s also a lot going on that we do see.) Continue Reading >>

Pandemic in Pictures: Park Perambulation

Okay, I admit, I couldn’t resist alliteration in the title, even though it’s a bit absurd. All that to say, with playgrounds closed…

Pandemic: Closed Playground
Although it looks like a purposeful stride, he didn’t continue on to the playground.

…we’re getting more creative with what to do outside. Fortunately, we live in a place with lots of good woodsy parks. Woods are God’s playground, and kids have played in the woods forever. Although I wish Benji could play with other kids his age, rather than a couple tired old adults who already spent the day and their energy on lame work, still we attempt to play in the woods. On Monday, Ian took Benji to a woodlands near our house, and they had a great time. Continue Reading >>

Pandemic in Pictures: Learning Continues

Angry coronavirus.

With schools closed for the duration, we’re creatively thinking about how to keep Benji learning and occupied during the day. At the moment, I’ve arranged standing daily classes or chats with three people, each of whom is teaching Benji something they specialize in. Thus, he’ll be learning some about history, writing, and French from my uncle; art, storytelling, music, and some script writing from my mom; and Pokemon from my sister. Just kidding–although they probably will talk Pokemon a lot, Colleen and Benji will be working on writing to answer specific questions, too. TBD. Continue Reading >>