Day 418: Mother’s Day adventure.

This morning Sal takes the kids to the park and releases me to go do whatever I want. I drive to my mom’s and drop off a little breakfast for her, then head for Pescadero State Beach. I sip coffee and listen to reggaeton, winding up and down the mountain for an hour. It’s cool, sunny, and windy when I get to the beach parking lot. I find a little crook in the stone wall facing the ocean, and read my VanderMeer book for some hours.

Quite satisfactory

I walk a little, find a pretty shell to show the kids. I explore a strange structure made of driftwood. I imagine the delight on the boys’ faces if they were here to crawl all over it.

It’s a lovely, restful day. Later, Sal and I watch another episode of Shadow and Bone on Netflix to close out the evening.

What am I grateful for today?

A fun weekend.

Day 417: Haircut!

Oh my gosh, I finally did it. I got a haircut! I forgot to measure how long my hair was before I went in, but I’d guess about it’s six inches shorter. I feel lighter. Like a spring breeze. Like a ray of sunshine.

Like I cut off a year of Quarantine.

What am I grateful for today?

No more split ends.

Day 416: Friday ponderings.

The Scarlet Witch and Vision are not my favorite Marvel characters. But a friend introduces me to WandaVision on Disney+ today, and I am hooked! We watch the first three episodes together (virtually). What a strange and perplexing adventure! There’s something delightful about watching two superheroes try to fit into suburban American culture in the 1950s and 1960s.

As I watch Wanda and Vision try to play the part of the model housewife and the breadwinner husband, I think about how strong that pull of conformity was in those decades. How deeply important it was to “fit in” and “keep up with the Joneses,” to reflect that glossy mirage of the American dream: a trimmed lawn, gleaming white picket fence, carpools and backyard barbecues. “Summering” at a lake house perhaps.

Though much has changed over the years, I feel the tug of that gravity pulling at us as the boys start forming social networks. As I watch Wanda and Vision fumble around, trying to get it right, I think, that’s what we’re doing. As we navigate our way through playdates, birthday parties, and all the expectations of middle class parenting, we too are learning the script as we go. Not always getting it right. Not always knowing what “getting it right” even means.

What am I grateful for today?

A mixed bag of fun and work.

Day 415: Arts and crafts day.

I pop downstairs to warm up coffee. Exuberance bursts from the kitchen table.

“Mom, look over there! Look what I drew for {the toddler}! It’s a freight truck!” the preschooler says.

I admire the truck. Actually, I would love to see this truck on the road in real life.

“Mail truck!” the toddler says. He points to his paper with many intersecting colorful lines and dots.

I admire his truck abstraction piece. Throughout the morning, the drawings multiply.

And more art to come! I leave my homequarters a little early for a special activity at the boys’ preschool – Mom and Me craft time.

The preschooler and I join a smattering of other masked parents and kids at the school. The teachers set up stations a social distance apart in the classrooms. The tiny tables are set with paper plates ringed with pools of paint, paintbrushes, water cups, and blank aprons.

I squeeze into a tiny chair next to the preschooler and we get to work painting. Our apron theme is “treasure chest at the end of the rainbow.” It’s fun to work on collaborative fabric art with a five year old. He mixes intriguing varieties of green and brown, and some color between purple, black, and green that I can’t name. He smears this Mystery Color in an arc above the rainbow. We paint each other’s names on the apron and the teacher hangs it up on a clothesline to dry.

After craft time, the kids AND moms get popsicles! The kid eats his in the school while I clean up our station. I open mine outside and eat while we walk back to the car.

“Mom, you’re not sharing any of your ice cream,” the preschooler says.

“You didn’t offer me any of yours,” I reply. “And you didn’t ask nicely. If you ask nicely, that increases your chances exponentially.”

He says “please” with a smile. I give him a bite or two. Or three. Our faces are covered in orange goo.

So in other words, it’s been a great day.

What am I grateful for today?

A fun time with my kid. And Sal surprised me with an early Mother’s Day present: a Shiatsu neck massager!

Day 414: Cinco de Mayo.

Sal is very busy this week, preparing for an art show. He usually does a Wednesday grocery run. I tell him not to worry – according to the Food Matrix, we have plenty of food. I defrost chili for dinner and make some cornbread muffins, since we are still out of bread. I found this fun recipe that mimics Jiffy brand corn muffins! One of my comfort food favs.

We observe an Ohm Hour from 8 to 9 p.m. As I tuck the kids into bed, they ask for the fan to be turned on. I open the window a crack and whisper, “not yet, it’s an Ohm Hour. I’ll turn on the fan when it’s over, ok?” The preschooler shares my vigilance with Ohm Hours, so he accepts this bargain.

Sal fills the dishwasher with a camping headlamp strapped to his forehead. The internet and router are off and I’m sitting in the darkness, typing these words using my Notes app by the self-glow of the MacBook screen’s battery power.

There’s something peaceful about Ohm Hours. The lack of humming from the systems perhaps. The pressure to get stuff done is relaxed. There’s only so much you can do by flashlight and battery power. 

The Ohm Hour calm this evening is broken with the sound of airplanes and helicopters circling outside. In our corner of San Jose, helicopters circling could mean a variety of things. Scanning for rogue fireworks, someone on the run, story chasing news choppers, fires, protest activity… 

“What’s up with all the helicopters tonight?” I say. 

Sal thinks about it. “Maybe Cinco de Mayo?” 

“Oh yeah, I bet that’s it. Do I have to make you a margarita or something?” I say. 

“Yeah, I think so. It’s Cinco de Mayo. Something with tequila.”

“That’s the rules I guess.”

“That’s the rules,” he agrees.

What am I grateful for today?

A cozy evening with just enough time left to read my book.

Day 413: Midweek Instant Pot spaghetti and rolls.

For dinner today I make one-pot-spaghetti in the Instant Pot. Here is my method:

  • Brown ground turkey with onion and garlic for a couple minutes. Add one cup of water.
  • Wrap up a couple handfuls of greens clippings in a cheesecloth and rest it on top. The greens will make broth while the meat is cooking! Pressure cook the meat.
  • When the meat is done, pour a jar of sauce over it, add more water, and some spaghetti noodles.
  • Sal bought these cool zucchini spirals, so I throw some of those in the mix.
  • Sprinkle with Italian spices.
  • Pressure cook for additional 4 minutes, quick release.

It’s great! But one problem – we are out of bread. I scramble for a dinner roll recipe that doesn’t require yeast or kneading, and throw those in the oven.

The boys finish their spaghetti before the rolls are done, but that works out fine. They usually fill up on bread if it’s served first, and this way, they filled up on spaghetti.

Now we have a little bread for tomorrow too.

These rolls won’t win any baking beauty contests, but they’ll get the job done!

What am I grateful for today?

It’s been so lovely outside this week, and I’m scheduling walking meetings or fitting in micro breaks to get outside.

Day 412: Random power outage.

This morning, in the middle of clickedy-clacketing away at my desk, the electricity goes out. I wait, listening. It comes back on for a moment, then dies again with a sigh. I wait a few more minutes, then pull up the PG&E outages map on my phone. Cellular service is slow, and it takes a while, but I find it – a power outage in my neighborhood, cause unknown.

I eat out, so I don’t have to open the fridge. The power is out until late afternoon. Fortunately, I am able to pull a few hours of work in the office. On the way to the office, I see an active fire on the side of the highway. It looks small, and I see a fire truck pulling off the exit. Still, I feel unsettled for the rest of the day.

“I’m glad the power came back on,” Sal says after the kids are in bed. “I wonder what it was.”

“Yeah, me too. It was like a bad memory, with the lights out, and seeing that fire. Made me think of last summer,” I say.

I take a break from my normal evening routine and catch up on Hummingbird Salamander. I’m a quarter of the way through. It’s good so far, but I am disappointed by the lack of paranormal creatures or alternate dimensions. I am concerned that VanderMeer has written an ordinary detective book…or is that what he wants me to think?

What am I grateful for today?

It was nice to see office people in their natural environment.

Day 411: Water hole.

At 9:11 a.m. we pack the kids, wagon, snacks, and gear into the Prius and head for Seacliff State Beach. Sal and I sip coffee and answer questions from the preschooler in the backseat about how the electric motor works. The toddler is quiet most of the way, transfixed by the traffic whizzing by his carseat on the highway.

We count down the 55 minutes in chunks…”How much longer, Dad?” the preschooler asks. 36 minutes… “How about now?” 22 minutes…

“Just 13 minutes left now!” I announce, before he can ask. Sal finds a parking spot right away. It seems the fates are with us today!

This day! Baby blue sky, sparkling, cool sunlight reflecting off gentle waves. Pacific ocean water is frigid all year round, but the kids don’t mind. They run in without hesitation, delighted. The foam collects on the smooth brown sand around our toes.

Sal and the preschooler dig a huge hole right by the surf. The toddler jumps in and out, in and out. A little girl walks by and stares at the water hole, makes a movement towards it, but thinks twice. Her mom says something to her. The toddler says, “hi!” She looks with longing for a few more moments, then follows her mom.

Later, as we’re packing up, Sal and the preschooler hand over the water hole to the kids building sand castles next to it. Several kids jump in, laughing and splashing. I see that tiny girl take a running start, and then leap into the pool. I laugh. She got her wish!

“You made those kids feel really happy, sharing your water hole with them,” I say to the preschooler. He looks pleased and proud.

What am I grateful for today?

Always feels good to have a day at the beach.

Day 410: A quasi-ferret.

My friends are developing a game on Godot and opened a Google Hangouts for camaraderie and artistic contributions. One of the characters is a ferret, so I attempt a few sketches. It’s difficult to capture the “ferretness” of a ferret. If you make it too tubular, it looks like a snake with ears. Not tubular enough, it resembles a puppy. In fact, it slips from puppy to fox quickly, depending on how you shape the ears and nose area. After a few iterations and some feedback, I get it close:

Ferret?

As we’re wrapping up, Sal returns from a park outing with the kids. He brings home Wendy’s and we have a cheerful lunchtime.

What am I grateful for today?

Sal and I started watching Shadow and Bone on Netflix. It’s pretty good so far.

Day 409: Adrift in the sea of monotony.

What are we going to do on Friday nights now that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has ended? Anticipating a new episode brought a spark of joy to the end of the week. Now that spark is gone.

I’m only sort of being dramatic.

One thing about Quarantine Life is that you cling to your miniseries. A good miniseries is a raft in a sea of monotony. You ride out the monotony on the raft, and time passes, and you don’t notice the sea for a while.

I guess I could read a book. Or catch up on chores or something. But you know, I just want to watch something fun and think outside my brain box for a little while.

What am I grateful for today?

I made a lovely soup in my Instant Pot with chicken, coconut milk, and lemongrass, carrots, and spinach from the CSA box. There’s still lots of chicken left, however.