This post was written over a week ago, as a recap of everything we did during “Self-Quarantine: Week One” to keep our kids entertained while stuck at home. I was expecting to go into the next week with more of the same, but as I wrote about the other day, my doctor now believes I have COVID-19. I am currently in real quarantine at home, in a separate room from my family, with instruction to remain there for ten days while I ride out the virus.
However, since most of you are still in the “occupy your kids” phase of the shutdown, I thought I would post this anyway. Maybe it will give you some ideas. And it definitely shows you how quickly the situation can change.
Two things to keep in mind. At the time of this post, 1) we were technically still on Spring Break. Our school was out from Thursday, March 12th and resumed online learning as of March 30th. 2) We were quarantined at the apartment for the first few days, then moved to our house that weekend, and didn’t start a more structured schedule until that Monday. So our “Day 1,” for the purposes of this post, was Monday March 16th, after Mazzy and Harlow already had four full days of pretty much unlimited screen time.
Day 1 (Monday)
Like many parents, we started our first week with a schedule. That schedule changed and shifted throughout the week, as we learned more about what we needed personally, how to get our own work done and what the kids could tolerate. I devised each day’s schedule the night before, presented to the kids after dinner, then took their input and made changes. We have never been a super structured family, but I found the kids really enjoyed making the schedule and having it to refer to, even if we didn’t follow it 100%.
It was particularly helpful in the morning, when the kids would prefer to settle in on the couch and watch TV indefinitely. The morning was also when I scheduled non-electronic academic activities, although my definition of academics definitely shifted throughout the week. We got looser in the afternoons, especially if the kids were enjoying an activity and wanted to keep doing it. If the kids got bored or lost their way, they would always say, “Mom, what’s next on the schedule?” and then we were back to having some order over the chaos.
9 AM Creative Time
At 8:55am, Harlow decided she wanted to make pancakes. So, I decided to swap exercise time with creative time, since creative time included baking. Harlow baked, while Mazzy drew on Procreate. Procreate is a drawing app on the iPad, which was technically not allowed, but I said “screw it” and let her do it.
10 AM Academic Time
While Harlow did a math worksheet that I made myself (adding double digits), Mazzy had to write a report about all the ways you can prevent Coronavirus (in retrospect, not living in the same house as your mom should have been on the list.)
Her top tips to prevent it? 1) Self-quarantine. 2) Wipe down handles and door knobs. 3) Don’t waste toilet paper. 4) Don’t waste food. 5) Don’t flex your Purell.
11:00 AM The kids have lost the plot
Even though we are sticking to a loose schedule, the best moments are sometimes when the kids go rogue. We were about to move to the next activity (morning exercise, which I had already swapped with creative time), but Mazzy and Harlow ran off into the den. I yelled for them to come to the kitchen table (where we are keeping all their learning materials) and they yelled back that they wanted to play.
“I don’t want you on your iPads or watching television!”
Then they emerged from the other room dressed like the photo above. “Okay. I’ll allow it.” My new rule is that if the kids are playing nicely, they can continue. If they start fighting, back to the schedule!
12:50 PM Lunch
Yes, lunch was an hour later than it was supposed to be, but whatever. It’s not like we have any place to be. Harlow wanted it to be extra special with fancy glasses full of lemonade. Sure, why not?
1:30PM Quiet Time
Mazzy wrote stories for Harlow to read and Harlow read them out loud. Then Mazzy went back on Procreate while Harlow wrote a short script that she wants us to act out one day. So far, it goes like this…
MOM: I think we should put a playground here. I’m the mayor.
HARLOW: I think we should put a pool here. I’m the president.
That’s all she’s got so far, but I think it’s pretty strong.
2:12 PM Outdoor Exercise
I made an outdoor obstacle course with all the random gym equipment I bought two summers ago and never used. We did bicep curls with weights, kicked a soccer ball, climbed the swing set, passed a medicine ball and ran around the yard until we were all panting. Well, at least I was.
4pm Live Dance Party
Mazzy, Harlow and I did a live dance party on Instagram. We played three songs and danced our asses off while people watched. I sweat up a storm and Harlow really played it up for the camera. She’s a natural. It felt great to burn off some energy and put out some good vibes to all the people watching.
6:25 PM Puzzle time (for Mike!)
7:15 PM Hey, Mike? You think you can stop with the puzzle for one second and make some dinner???
8:00 PM Movie Time
After dinner we watched Harry Potter 2, so we could start a read-aloud of Harry Potter 3 the following day. We’ve already read the first two books but wanted a refresher.
Day 2 (Tuesday)
7:27 AM Everyone up for St. Patrick’s Day!
I tried to make some fun for the kids (well, for Harlow) by putting green dye in the toilet water, moving some things around and leaving a trail of gold sequins to a gold pot (aka a measuring cup) of green M&M’s.
The girls had made a leprechaun trap back at the apartment, but we had to leave it when we moved out the city, so Harlow was beyond excited to find evidence that a leprechaun visitor still made an appearance even though we were without our trap.
9:00 AM Creative time
Harlow made green pancakes, including a tiny pancake for our leprechaun to discover.
Meanwhile, Mazzy did some drawing. My favorite is this bunny with a whipped cream hat.
10:27 AM Electronic learning time
Mazzy watched a Ted Talk about math, while Harlow had a session with her reading tutor over FaceTime.
3pm: Indoor exercise
Harlow and I did an exercise routine and made a tiktok about our exercise routine, so we got to combine PE and content creation (aka my job) in one!
4pm: Social Time
Mazzy spent a good hour playing games on House Party with her friends in the other room, while Harlow had a virtual playdate with her cousin Jack. I think staying connected with friends is as important as academics, so if that means added screen time, so be it.
6:15 PM Glass of wine. I earned it.
7:00PM Dinner and a “show”
In this case, the show was the “Grammy Show.” On this particular episode, Grammy tried to cook a whole turkey so it could feed her for a week. But, she injured her foot and couldn’t walk so she had to yell cooking instructions to my stepdad Sam from the comfort of her chair. Comedy ensued. “This is a great episode!” Harlow and Mazzy declared.
Day 3 (Wednesday)
By this point, I think it’s fairly obvious that the kids pretty much ignored my schedules throughout the day, but I will post my one last attempt below.
I would like to note, we did manage to get two hours of academic time in each day, even if it wasn’t done at exactly the time I said to do it. And I think listing options helped the kids find activities that didn’t always involve screen time.
9:00 AM Outdoor exercise
Mazzy went roller skating, Harlow took out her skateboard and I went jogging. I feel really lucky to have a quiet street to play and run around on, even if the kids don’t see it quite that way.
11:03 AM Doodling with Mo Willems
We tried Mo Willem’s “Let’s Doodle Together” Live videos. Piggie & Gerald is one of Harlow’s favorite book series, so she was thrilled to learn how to draw Gerald.
11:50 AM Art class
In Italy, kids have been posting rainbow signs in their windows with the message “Andra Tutto Bene” to signify that one day there will be a rainbow after the storm. So, I decided we would paint rainbows with our own messages of positivity right here in the US.
I didn’t realize how much I needed that message until Harlow pressed her finished rainbow sign up against our window.
1:42 PM Academic time
Mazzy had a math session with her tutor over facetime, while Harlow watched “The Who Was? Show,” a children’s history show on Netflix. As I said, we loosened our definition of “academics” throughout the week.
3:45 PM Family beach trip
The whole family drove out to the beach and even though it was windy, it felt glorious. I forgot that was an option. Please note: beaches near us are cold and empty.
We ran around in the sand, played soccer, collected seashells and built a sand castle, all while I wondered if it was possible to sanitize all the sand on the beach with Clorox Wipes.
5:45 Social Time
On the way home from the beach, we stopped at our friend’s house and had a social distance party in their driveway. I stayed far back, thank god!
7:29 PM Dinner and dessert (ice cream time is even more crucial during quarantine)
Day 4: Thursday
Mazzy and Harlow asked for a schedule-free day and since we weren’t following it that closely anyway, I said okay. I let the girls fend for themselves and I actually got some work done for the first time all week.
9am Wildlife Watching
The kids noticed a family of deer outside and we ran around the house to different windows, trying to get the best vantage point. Then Mazzy noticed some red cardinals flying outside our kitchen window. Between the deer, the cardinals, and the swans, egrets and geese in the creek, we have ourselves a pretty great zoo to observe!
10am Imagineering class
Even though we were schedule free, I still made sure Mazzy and Harlow incorporated some productive activities. Like instead of playing Minecraft, I helped Mazzy get on Kahn Academy to take an imagineering course from Disney. You can check out all the free educational resources available I found online. It’s pretty mind-blowing.
Meanwhile, Harlow continued watching “The Who Was? Show” in the den. She loves that show.
11:00am Outdoor Time
The girls went outside to run around the backyard. Mazzy went on the swing set, while Harlow ran to the dock, where she spotted some people in the distance on a boat. It looked like they were using a net to drain the creek of all the fish. I guess it’s nice to know that if it ever came down to it, we’d have something to eat.
The real highlight of the day was when Poppy came over. I think this photo captures social distancing perfectly.
My dad been taking this whole thing very seriously for weeks, so honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see him for awhile. It was awesome to be near him, even if we couldn’t be next to him. He demonstrated his dog cone (he’s still wearing it!) and told us all about the precautions he is taking. He wears gloves when he is out to get groceries and then when he gets home, he changes his clothes (he’s got indoor and outdoor clothes), washes his hands with the gloves on and then washes his hands again when he takes them off.
The dog cone looks ridiculous but he says it prevents people from coughing or sneezing directly on his face, prevents him from coughing or sneezing directly on anybody else and stops him from touching his face. Obviously, he’s not a doctor and this is not a perfect solution, but I have to think he is right in that it is better than nothing. And he is not using up any masks that are so needed by hospitals right now. He bought his at Petco!
I love my dad. I was so happy to see him. Just another reminder of why we are all doing this.
1pm Check out our new craft center!
Mike moved some bridge tables into the living room and set up an arts and craft center for the girls. We have so much paint, craft sets, and supplies buried in all the closets and cabinets that it made a huge difference to pull them out and have them all accessible to the girls. Mazzy and Harlow spent the next few hours of the day creating at those tables. It even gave Mike and I a chance to relax in the living room with a drink.
4:00PM Facebook Live
Mazzy had the inspired idea to invite people to play the game Watch Your Mouth with us over Facebook Live. Unfortunately, our internet connection was not working too well so it didn’t go as smoothly as planned. We had fun though!
Note: Thursday was the night I started to come down with some pretty massive headaches, so I didn’t record as much from here.
Day 5: Friday
9:15 AM Harlow put together quarantine snacks for the family
11:00 AM Indoor exercise
Harlow and I did a live session from Zen Girl Fitness, who is doing them every Friday at 11am with her kids. Mazzy filmed.
4Pm: Andy Grammer Concert
Someone messaged me to tell me that Andy Grammer was going live on Facebook, so of course, Harlow wanted to watch. He’s her favorite singer. She had me write a comment about how much she loves his music so he would know.
2:00 PM Life lessons
Harlow learned to chop veggies with a kid knife while Mazzy learned how to toast a bagel.
I should tell you that for much of that afternoon, Mike put the kids to work. He taught them to do laundry, vacuum and put the dishes away. Later that night, when I really started not to feel well, I told Mike I wanted to lay down. A few minutes later, Mazzy and Harlow came upstairs complaining that they didn’t want to take Daddy’s Chicken Class.
“What’s Daddy’s chicken class?”
“He is teaching us how to make breaded chicken cutlets.”
I had to laugh, when I was little, my favorite thing was to make breaded chicken cutlets with my mom. She used to call it “chicken going to the beach.” First the chicken cutlets went in the water (the egg), then they played in the sand (the bread crumbs), then they laid out in the sun (the frying pan) and then they dried off with a towel (laying them down on a paper towel to soak up the grease.) I told my kids about the chicken beach and suddenly the were interested in Daddy’s Chicken Class.
As I lay in bed upstairs, I heard Mazzy and Harlow bound downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Can you teach us how to make chicken cutlets like Grammy?” They asked.
“How does Grammy do it?”
“They go to the beach.”
It is such a surreal time right now, but I’m grateful that I am spending it at home with my family. Teaching, learning, and entertaining in ways I really never imagined. I mean, we all want quality time with our kids right? HERE IT IS IN BOATLOADS.
I’ll keep recording how we are spending our days and how we are handling things, because I think there is lots of comfort in knowing that all around the world, other families are doing the same.