Coronavirus, Part 2 Day 16- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

I’m sitting out front right now, wishing I had brought my DSLR camera with me. The birds are more active than normal today and I just had a blue jay land 12 feet away from me. Darn it if I didn’t have the right camera with me! I have resigned myself to enjoy watching him (or her) sit there and look around, I have snapped a photo with my iPhone though. In photography world, there’s a lot of snobbery around the question, “what kind of camera do you use?”, to which a wise person once said, “the best camera is the one that’s with you.” Sure. The iPhone photo is at the bottom of this post. You decide.

Backyard. Blue Jay.

I sent an email to Nick’s teacher today that went something like this:

Thank you for your time last week in explaining everything Nick is missing. After a lot of frustration, I think we’re going to take the hit on the missing work and focus on what’s left until the year is over.

She was very kind in her response. She explained that she’s not grading anything else, and that if we can manage it, we should focus on completing assignments X, Y, and Z.

After last week’s struggles with virtual school I have been paying more attention to the things Nick says when the going gets tough for him. Because when he starts this negative talk, it’s like he hits a wall. He gets caught in a loop that he can’t get himself out of it and can’t do his work.

I was doing some Googling and very quickly came upon the topic of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). I don’t know much about CBT but I remember I first came across it during my deployment when I was trying to solve my stress induced insomnia problem. Apparently, CBT has many applications.

A couple of really good ideas for improving executive brain function involve learning time management skills and learning skills to re-route negative self talk. While I think everyone struggles to a certain extent with time management and engages in negative self-talk from time to time, when those things start to interfere with your ability to do work or sleep or whatever, it’s worth learning some new skills. And I think it’s really helpful to think of those things as skills rather personal discipline problems. So, as I wrap up these last two weeks of virtual school, I’ll think about how to teach Nick to break out of his loop and overcome his feelings of ‘I can’t do it.’ Perhaps solving this now will help avoid loads rough times at the kitchen table for years to come.

Front yard. Blue Jay. iPhone.

Coronavirus Part 2, Day 12- Daring to Discipline

Eggs and jalapeños for breakfast. Photo credit: Penelope

I don’t know if there would have been fewer deaths under Obama, but I know we’d all feel better.


It’s hot and humid today in Houston, the sky is threatening to open up and rain just to cool things off. In Coronavirus news, today I learned that in South Africa they mandated a ban on alcohol and tobacco as part of their lockdown. South Africans are expecting the government to lift the ban soon. I’m not saying our government is perfect, but a ban on alcohol and tobacco is rough.

Penny has refused to do her work, but unfortunately for her I woke up this morning of the mindset that I was going to get through to her today. I even took her to our credit union and withdrew $20, broken down into $1 bills, quarters, dimes, and pennies so I could teach her about tens and ones and why you line them up to add and subtract them. We did not make it through the word problem set. She’s upstairs playing the harmonica. No iPad.

Birdwatching. Brewers Black Bird or Common Grackle?

Speaking of waking up, I learned a new trick from this book Liturgy of the Ordinary which has this section at the back about establishing rituals. I really liked this ‘ritual’ idea, rather than the dreaded word, ‘habit’. So, rather than wake up and reach for my phone, I wake up, I get up, I pray and contemplate, and then I reach for my phone. Because the moment I reach for my phone, the noise of the day has started and I’m already behind.

So I braced myself and spiritually prepared for what’s about to happen this evening now that I’ve banned media because both my kids failed to do their work. I remember telling my dad one day that the kids behaved poorly at church. Steve and I were supposed to enact some consequence but had intentionally forgotten about it and my house just went about the business of having a peaceful Sunday.

“The trouble is, that if I ground the kids from going outside, it’s like I’m punishing myself too,” I told my dad.

“Yes, but this way you will punish yourself twice. The first time when you put up with the bad behavior again, and the second time when you enforce the original punishment.”

Touché dad. Touché.

Poppy. Photo credit: Penelope

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 30- Friends and Acquaintances

Just another day.

It’s nearly 4pm now and for the first time today I’m not up doing stuff. In an hour I will get up and make dinner. For now I will try to ignore the noise coming from Penny’s iPad and the PS4 downstairs. Putting in ear plugs, now.

I give virtual school a B (-) today. Nick had his two classes, Penny had assignments to do. I suppose we’re getting the hang of things, although it’s requiring heavy handedness from me because Penny needs me to walk her through all her assignments, and Nick needs me to police him. I used to let him go to his room and work from there, but– and I know this will come as a shock– he just played solitaire with the teacher in the background. He turned in no math assignments that week, so that was the end of that. I know I had mentioned the tentative date of 4 May for school to resume, but no one I talk to expects the kids back to school anytime soon. Then it will be summer time. We have arrived to the new normal.

I took my own advice this morning and started a chat group with the other moms from my unit. For a few minutes I felt like I was part of the world again. We hadn’t all seen each other for a while because of deployments and pregnancies and now all this, so it was really really great to say hello. One of the first things that struck me when I came back from my mobilization in January is that adults in normal life live in parallel from one another and don’t seem intersect for long enough for friendships to form spontaneously. People are busy living their raising kids and earning money, so for the most part you just get to acquaintance-level relationships. But maybe it’s just me. Maybe I need to get out more.

And speaking of getting out more, it’s a really pretty day today.