Coronavirus Part 2, Day 11- Virtual School Woes

Penny and I have just returned from an outing to the bird park, which is this little nature center near my house with indigenous Texas plants and pocket prairie where birds and squirrels and other critter-type wildlife come and go. I was inspired to hop on our bikes and take the outing because as Penny and I were sitting outside we heard a woodpecker friend pecking away at the tree overhead. I took his photograph, and a few other bird photographs at the bird park. I have learned that it’s one thing to hear the birds, it’s another to spot them, and it’s yet another to spot them long enough and in the right light to photograph them.

Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay

I’ve been quite scatterbrained today. I have several writing projects that I have wanted to complete by June, but between virtual school and drill this weekend, I’m having trouble finding the time. Actually, the time is not the issue. Uninterrupted time is the issue. Blogging is the only writing I can do that, when I get interrupted, I can quickly pick up where I left off. These other projects require at least 20 minutes just to get warmed up. By then someone needs me for something. It’s very, very frustrating, so I avoid this during “working hours”.

Virtual school has gone poorly this week for Penny. She has refused to do most of her work and I haven’t had the will to fight her to do it. I recognize this is my fault. Of note, the Houston Independent School District published this back in April:

No district grades taken after March 12, 2020 can negatively impact a student’s overall average for the course.


The parent community has understood this to mean that the district is going to be flexible about grades. In other, other words, bad grades don’t count. I don’t care about grades per se, but I do care that my kids learn whatever skills they need to learn for their age/grade level. So maybe I sort of care about grades. Fine.

I wish the teachers for the younger grades would say, ‘look parents, if you want worksheets and video screen time because your kids enjoy it and it works for you, then here it is. If you have your own program or materials you’re welcome to do that as well. I won’t think you’re blowing me off if you don’t upload the spelling word search.’ Because this is what’s keeping me going, now, for this virtual school thing. Never mind the learning value, I just don’t want to be that parent who doesn’t turn in her homework. I don’t want to be that jerk parent that blows off the teacher.

Goofing off.

Coronavirus Day 33- My Big Giant Boy Saves the Day

Here I am, at my computer, coming up with clever things.
Photo credit: Nicholas

Since I’m tired of Coronavirus, I will relay this thing that happened just after lunch. When my Big Giant Boy came to the rescue.

We finished virtual school time and Nick asked for my phone so he could play Fortnite and FaceTime his friends.

“Sure,” I said, “but you owe me a mile. Then you can play all you want.”

I wanted to make sure he ran the whole thing so I decided to follow him on my bike. Then I had the idea to bring Poppy. Somehow, I would do all these things: run Poppy, run Nick, ride a bike.

Poppy cooperated for the first quarter-mile, pulling me along the trail at a consistent pace. It was great. I thought about those Alaskan sled-dogs and wondered if Poppy had some sled-dog pedigree. So there I was, gliding along as we approached the giant modern house under construction. Poppy made a hard stop and pulled me off my bike. I banged my knee. Several people stopped to ask if I was okay or needed help (“I’m okay!”). I told Nick to keep running while I got Poppy situated again, but she squeezed out of her collar and took off down the street. I went after her on foot and I felt really dumb that I didn’t think to chase her on my bike. Meanwhile, Poppy was having a great time.

I managed to corner Poppy between two houses a block away but still couldn’t catch her. At that point I thought I might lose my dog. I had a new number after all, and had not updated her microchip. Then I noticed someone coming to help; it was my Big Giant Boy! He had seen my abandoned bike on the trail, thought ‘gee some dumb person just left their bike,’ realized it was my bike, and rode to the rescue. Nick tackled Poppy as she tried to zip past him on the street and caught her. Phew!

So there it is, my Big Giant Boy came to the rescue to catch the family dog. Someday he will move large pieces of furniture with his dad which is cool. Otherwise, it’s just been another day in social isolation land.

#TBT Here’s Nick and I, circa 2011.

Coronavirus Day 23- Toilet Paper is a Big Deal

Fried egg challenge. Who made it better? (Answer: Nobody!)

The kids are in the backyard doing a campout challenge. A campout challenge is when Nick says, “Let’s do a campout!” And Penny says, “Okay!” And off they go to fashion something for a tent and assemble sleeping gear from around the house. At one point Nick was chopping bamboo with the gardening sheers.

“Do you guys want to hear about the time this guy I worked with had his thumb sliced off when he was a kid?”

“You already told us mom. They were playing cashier and the leaves were money and he got his thumb cut off.” Nick said.

No thumbs were lost today, but it did start raining after the kids had all their stuff laid out. But we’re outside again with our things a little moist, trying to exercise noise discipline while Steve is on an important call. I’ve had this vague sense of being behind all day. Homeschooling did not go so well last week. It’s been difficult supervising Nick and knowing what assignments are due. I also had a rushed call this morning with a financial planner (an appointment I scheduled before Covid). I guess there’s nothing like talking to a financial planner to make you feel a little behind on life.

In Coronavirus news, as I skimmed the front page of my physical copy of The Wall Street Journal (a real newspaper!), I found that every story had either the word “Coronavirus”, “pandemic”, “crisis”, or “Covid-19” somewhere in the body of the article. There’s an opinion piece today titled, Ode to American Toilet Paper. What a strange blip in time.

They’re spending the night here, supposedly.

Coronavirus Day 20- Elementary School On Zoom

The Spelling Test That Never Happened

Penny has been at her iPad for the past hour on Microsoft Teams waiting for her teacher to start a spelling test. This is time well spent in my book, with Penny on her iPad looking at a bunch of her young peers, all of them talking at the same time saying unintelligible things. Sometimes a real conversation gets going.

“Are you eating breakfast Penelope?” One girl asks.


“But isn’t it almost lunch time?”

“Yes. But I’m a night owl.”

Yesterday Nick’s teacher announced that today would be “Wear a Shirt to Class” day. Not “Wear Your Class Shirt” day, but wear any shirt day. I guess some boys logged onto the video chat not wearing shirts at all.

I woke up frustrated and complainy this morning for no good reason. Sometimes I have to will myself into being a real grown-up. It doesn’t just happen. Tomorrow I will attend a virtual drill since actual drill was canceled at my reserve unit. In normal life I look forward to drill because I like my unit, and because going to drill is when I rate to exit my role as the adult on-demand for at least 48 hours. As it is, I’m looking forward to my virtual drill because tomorrow, I will sit at my computer for eight hours where I will rate to be left alone and uninterrupted. I know, I know, I am so lucky. All that. But it does get old, living life in 20 minute increments. While writing this paragraph Penny came and yelled at me for not watering her plant. After lunch, I will do nothing but be available, on demand, and all will be better.

Chloe, trying very hard to fit in this Tupperware

Coronavirus Day 19- USS Theodore Roosevelt

Passing the time making random stuff

We’re bored of being bored today. At the time of this writing it’s 4:31pm and I feel like I’ve been idling around all day. This isn’t true of course. The kids each had school obligations this morning. I spent an hour with Penny teaching her how to count tens and ones saying things like, ‘See if you have 10 of something, it’s 1 ten, not 10 tens.’ I have no idea what Nick has going on for school. This morning he went up to his room, listened to his teacher on Zoom for 30 minutes and complained for another 30 minutes about having to do some reading comprehension assignment. I will have to confront him about this. Which I will do, later.

In Coronavirus news, the captain of a carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved after a letter he sent his chain of command leaked to the media. In the letter he pleaded his naval superiors to act amid a Coronavirus outbreak on the ship- 25 cases reported last Friday, now 100 cases. Obviously, a Coronavirus outbreak in a closed system like a ship is a very bad thing. I bet the crew and their families back home were freaking out. An investigation is most definitely underway.

I’m loosely reminded of the book The Caine Mutiny, which touches on the dynamics of ship life and the nature of the relationship between the ship’s captain and his crew, and the captain’s constant dilemma between war fighting readiness and crew morale. I wonder what will come of it all in the current situation. I hope the infected sailors make a smooth recovery.