July

Dumb Things I Say Now:

“Is orange tongue a symptom of Covid or am I eating way too many Emergen-C tablets?”

“What song did you sing while washing your hands? If it isn’t ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ get back in there.”

“Does Publix have toilet paper? Paper Towel? Clorox wipes? My old life?”

“Can you sanitize masks in an Insta Pot?”*

*”You can do anything in an Insta Pot.”

“Do you think Dr. Fauci would adopt me? Marry me?”

“Do you want to trade jigsaw puzzles because I’m 94 years old and super boring now.”

(Related) “Do you think $78 is too much to spend on retro Froot Loops puzzle?”

“I meant for my home hair color to look this way.”

“Have you had a fever above 100.4 in the last 14 days? Been around someone who did? Thought about someone who did?”

“THEY ARE SPITTING CHERRY PITS LIVE ON ESPN!”

(Related) “I’m totally watching that.”

“Can you see my wine glass in the Zoom frame?”

“STOP SENDING ME MY WEEKLY SCREEN TIME, SIRI! NO ONE NEEDS THAT KIND OF NEGATIVITY RIGHT NOW. READ THE DAMN ROOM.”

“We should go back to school in person.” Five minutes later: “We should go back to school remotely.”

Repeat above sentences 78 times daily.

Better Things I Say Now

“Just do something to exercise your mind, body and spirit today no matter what that is.”

“It’s really not going to be like this forever.”

“Reach out to at least one friend today–they are feeling exactly the same way you are.”

“There’s no one I’d rather quarantine with more.”

“Take a deep breath.”

“Wash your hands.”

June

I don’t think our particular map dot was unique during Covid in that ten miles in any given direction of our house meant a different set of rules, mandates and orders. Frankly, it was a confusing and haphazard mess, but by June we had become accustomed to living(ish) our best lives in isolation.

But we were bored.

With no more drawers left to organize and all of Netflix watched, we decided to roll some of our Bubble north and socially distance in a place that unwittingly invented it generations ago: The Upper Penninsula of Michigan.

We figured camping in The RV would be a perfect way to travel safely during a 72-hour window where the stars aligned just long enough for us to gas up and head out with our road warriors to look at different trees under a different sky.

Camping in Da U.P.

Donned in our summer masks and gloves, Louise and I packed up as many kids as we could catch and headed up the Interstate. Not knowing what apocalyptic surprises awaited out there in the world, we departed fully stocked for at least a month for ten people without having to stop for any supplies other than gas for our 4-day trip.

Our families have been on many adventures together over the years. Each was different but special. This one was perhaps the least planned, but the most needed. We did nothing yet did everything. And while my description of it is inadequate, I know that anyone who has endured the summer of 2020 knows exactly what I mean.

Falling for Tahquamenon Falls

I grew up in Michigan, and I can tell you that there has never been a 5 day stretch of no temperature fluctuations of 40 degrees or more in a single day, blue skies, no rain, hail, snow or lava storm in its history until this perfect week in June. I would have called you a liar if I hadn’t witnessed this miracle of nature firsthand. We spent all of our days outside at State and National Parks, dipping our toes in Great Lakes and eating cherries and marshmallows. The crowded long drive was worth it when rewarded with these awe-inspiring wide open wonders that reminded us that this big, beautiful world is still spinning. Thankfully.

Pictured Rocks Picture

And big doses of Vitamin D are sometimes just as efficacious as zinc during this pandemic.

April

As castaways from society, the first couple of weeks felt like Gilligan’s Island–all laughs and coconut cream pies for every meal. The second half of the month was more like The Island of Doctor Moreau as we devolved into unrecognizable creatures; angry, furry, and growling at each other and no one was wearing pants.

Although everything had ground to a halt, we still had hope that it was temporary and while Easter would be in quarantine, by May Day we’d be in the relative clear. Those spring celebrations would be postponed just a few weeks and this quarantine was going to be in our rearview mirror if we had anywhere to drive.

Obviously, that didn’t happen.

We celebrated birthdays with caveats that party guests would be forthcoming. Rainchecks on happiness. Movie nights, days, weeks. We cooked! Things that we weren’t necessarily hungry for or things you really shouldn’t prepare yourself–I’m looking at you sushi and yogurt–but we were supplying our island and honing survival skills without even knowing it. We were going to be rescued any day now…

It is now Day 182 on the island and counting. Our distress signals go unheeded but we can fashion a mean facemask out of banana leaves.*

*Please note that’s the only thing I’m willing to use the banana leaves for despite the biggest shortages at the grocery store.

Also, Ricardo Montaban owes me a refund because this is the worst episode of the season.

Speaking of March

If March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, the 2020 version must have come in like a rabid raccoon with a raging case of pink-eye and an undiagnosed venereal disease. It went out like…well, it never really left and just lay dying in the corner of the room.

Speaking of things that stink, we here in Nashville got hit hard early in the month with a deadly tornado that tore through our city on March 3rd. I’m not sure we’ve exhaled since. Our family suffered loss that day and the first of many blows to our sense of security. It also marks the last time we slept through the night.

Us vs. Nashville Tornado

Speaking of things that blow, the last time all of our children were all in their respective classrooms was March 5th. Traditional college, high school and middle school all ceased around here since that last weird day. Hockey season was paused, and everyone retreated home to figure out what working and schooling from home was going to look like thinking it was a short term situation. Remember when we were so young and innocent…

Speaking of naivete, the way we interpreted the original social distancing guidelines way back then was that you made your quarantine bubble based on whoever was in your immediate vicinity at the time you first heard the news–kind of like a game of tag but no one could touch each other and being “it,” was super bad and ended the game rather unceremoniously. Nonetheless, this is who composed your Circle of Trust. (Welcome to the family, Publix cashier.) That meant Louise, Sundance and all of our 10 kids made for one extra-large circle. Inside this rather large and loud bubble, we isolated and cooked. And played games. And watched movies. And ordered a lot of shit. And whispered in questioning tones away from the kids that surely we would be through this after Easter? Surely.

Speaking of bubbles in my wine, I can’t say this was an awful time for me. Being certain that this was short-lived (!) it was nice having our nest full again doing puzzles and sitting down for dinner together every night. Having everyone home was an unexpected blessing during a time it was hard to count many. As the weeks bled into months it still was this happy bubble that remained the one constant when the world around us fell apart.

Speaking of surrounding ourselves in light even when it seems the darkest; that’s how March ended and how I will end my posts and my days–dragging my bubble to the nearest buoy of joy and clinging on for dear life.

Unlike that raccoon in the corner. Time to give him a proper burial. We won’t speak of him again.

Happy New Year?

Like most parents and smaller human beings who attended some sort of school in their lifetimes, I have always considered the beginning of the school year the actual “New Year” rather than when the calendar turns to January. That used to be because it was a natural new beginning–new grade, new books with new chapters. New attitude. The next step forward.

Today, it might be because an early exit of 2020 is at the top of my Amazon wish list along with paper towel and a chest freezer.

So Happy New Year, Friend! Let’s put an in memoriam montage together for this fresh circle of hell so we can get back to the good stuff.

Our phases of quarantine probably look fairly similar no matter where you live in the world. We started in the Tiger King period–which was about neither Tigers nor Kings, discuss–moved into Artisanal Bread Baking–until the only bacteria we were suddenly short on was yeast–Jigsaw Puzzles And Other Boring 19th Century Crafts and Hobbies You Took Odd Pride in Mastering, and finally we settled into Futile Suburban Homesteading and Husband Husbandry.

We’ve asked–yet never answered–unimaginable questions like, “Can you make hand sanitizer in an Insta-Pot?” “How can I have a negative step count today?” “Do I wash masks on Delicates or Permanent Press?” “Who is hoarding all the ramen and creamed corn? And why?” “Are my pajama pants visible in this Zoom frame?” “What’s a murder hornet?”

However as much as we’ve given up, we’ve gained new things that we never anticipated as well. We have a Home Pandemic Supply basket. I have a favorite face mask. There’s a Covid emoji. I have intimate and immediate knowledge of Covid-19 practices for every store, restaurant, business, LLC, charitable organization, and recipe in my entire Internet browsing history since 1994. And perhaps Corona’s greatest gift, curbside pickup at Liquor stores.

And while we might exchange a knowing chuckle online reading this behind wisps of uncut hair with chin-length roots lamenting about things we couldn’t fathom mere months ago, I suppose it’s because mourning all of what and whom we’ve lost is much, much harder. From losses small and great, they are all cruel and unyielding. The grief we’ve had to share seems even deeper when it comes 6 or more feet apart.

It’s definitely time for a reboot. I’m not sure if this new start date will take or not, but it’s certainly worth a try. Maybe in this phase, September 1 will become the new January 1st. I’m doing my part by adopting quarantine weight-loss resolutions and sporting a hefty hangover to ring in 2020.5 accordingly.

Let’s do this thing together.

Who are you wearing?

One of the more underrecognized departments is Costuming and Merchandise.

Not Disney, Silly. I’m talking about Louise.

She’s in charge of the logo and matching wardrobe we all sport on these trips, and let me just say, this year’s design was epic.

I might be making this fact up, but I think they say you can see the Epcot ball from space. After this week, you could add our group of 14 in the matching gold reflective T-shirts to that list with the Great Wall of China. We really are a sight to behold, and despite the obvious fashion statement, it does serve a greater purpose of keeping us altogether in a crowd. On the day we laundered our shirts and arrived to Hollywood Studios dressed all random-like, the only way I could identify our group was by the teenagers begging to wear them again for the Gram. (I also was still suffering from the swimmers’ ear, so it is possible I wasn’t hearing them correctly.)

It helps to have a uniform when we are playing our roles in Snow-Not-Quite-Right and the Ten Dwarves. We’ve got Sweaty, Texty, Sticky, Line-Jumpy, Always Hungry, Fortnitey,  SnapChatty, Summer Reading Avoidy, Sunscreeny, and Visco. (Roles are interchangeable by the minute.) Louise and I both resembled the Evil Queen offering up suspect snacks from our backbacks that probably have turned to poison by now.

And speaking of Epcot, if it’s possible to create an international incident in a fake country, consider our party officially banned from at least 2 pretend continents.

Our offical apologies, Japan.  I realize our mass extradition was made simpler by our identifying dress.

Winning

From my prolonged silence on the matter, you may have assumed that we succumbed to our various illnesses. Or perhaps we contracted Legionnaires’ disease at our Atlanta hotel because there was a Legionnaires’ outbreak at our Atlanta hotel. Or maybe we have been stuck atop Space Mountain all this time and none of you have bothered to contact the proper authorities. Thanks a lot.

None of the above actually occurred–except there really was a Legionairre’s outbreak–and instead we just found ourselves dead on our feet at the end of each day and trying to get our Magic Bands to open up a bottle of wine. Which to our disappointment, it never did. Thanks a lot, Walt.

Though it does turn out that a proper corkscrew is about the only thing a Magic Band can’t do, and we got pretty savvy using it to do all sorts of things around the Magic Kingdom. Our first park day was a success–and the weather was perfect, being just shy of 1200 degrees, with a late afternoon storm of boiling hail. Somehow, we brought 2 rain ponchos for 14 people, so that worked out just as we had planned.

After having gained entry without the dreaded Supervisor Call Over or the Guest Services Walk of Shame, hitting all of the big rides with a Fast Pass itinerary that was surely the envy of all, finding the one restarant serving sangria for lunch, and outwitting further Legionnaires’ from the misting fans all over the property; we pretty much won Disney on Day 1.*

 

*I only write that last reckless sentence after a safe return from atop Space Mountain and a clear pulmonologist report.

 

 

 

Halfway there and indeed, living on a prayer

Un-stranding yourself from an island is more difficult than you might think.

After 5 days on the beach, a Quincearna baseball game and a private fireworks show from one of the world’s richest men that we just happened upon with no invitation; we attempt departure from the sheer randomness of that sentence and half of our vacation is over.

We leave this part of the Sunshine State a little battered–if we tally up the ailments we stand at 1 sprained ankle, 2 swimmer’s ears, 437 bug bites, a 2nd degree sunburn, a latent case of Strep throat, and suspected case of flesh-eating bacteria accompanied by severe hypochondria.

In other words, we are our usual hot mess by Day 6.

But vacationing with us stops for no one, so we pile into the RV (shocked that it’s still at the sketchy campground we left it) and head for a stock up trip to Publix and Walt Disney World! (The two establishments that have most of our money, btw.)

Disney campgrounds really are a superior camping experience. To accomodate our small army, we also have 2 cabins so we can spread out a little, but truth be told we could have filled a third. Heat makes things and people expand, and it’s hot here.

After an incredibly efficient camp set-up and our first of 300 Magic Band search and panic missions, we end our long day with the most expensive Mac and Cheese/BBQ Buffett this side of Space Mountain but grateful we aren’t cooking it. We turn in early because a theme park awaits in the morning and everyone knows that’s the perfect environment for a few compromised immume systems and heat sensitivity!

BRB, R&R

We’ve all spent the last few days “relaxing” on the beach. Dad-style.

This has included planning a tennis tournament with the kids in 110 degree heat with athletes 30 years younger and more able; and then spinning drama and controversy from said tournament that they themselves crafted the framework and rules.

~Recovering physically from the tournament, both from the injuries incurred, and the egos which were bruised.

~17 daily trips to and from the beach carrying an inordinate amount of beach toys and adult beverages, but never seeming to have the right number of either.

~Sand-removal. From so many places and people parts sand just shouln’t be.

~Ice runs. Because Dads need a lot of ice; and need to talk about the means, amount, melt-rate, etc. about as much as they need to talk about Dream Teams in every sport.

~Dream Team compilations and drafts in every sport.

 

But to be fair, in between all of this “relaxing,” there’s been a lot ice cream fetching, fishing, firework-watching, wildlife appreciation, intense binge watching of the new season of Stranger Things on Netflix and superb grilling.

Just make sure he flips the burger with the good arm and doesn’t mistake the Aspercreme with the ketchup.