Sunday, October 18, 2020

Seven autumn takes

Time for an update, isn't it?


The pandemic stretches on. A lot of people seem to have gotten bored and gone back to usual activities. We mostly have not. Luckily, our state is keeping r<1, which means it's not spiking. Probably due to mask wearing, which people are actually doing pretty faithfully.

The schools gave us two choices, virtual or in person. The in-person classes are socially distanced, and the students are supposed to be wearing masks all day. In order to spread out the amount they need to, different cohorts are there different days: elementary kids four days a week, middle schoolers two (I think), and high schoolers one.

Virtual kids got a loaner chromebook and have two video calls a day. The rest is video lectures they can watch at any time, and assignments they can finish on their own. That's a lot less burdensome than many long video calls, which sounds like a nightmare when I hear other kids are doing that.

It was a huge struggle deciding what to do. On the one hand, I'm home all day, so theoretically I should be able to keep everyone with me. And that would be safer, and save the school resources. But on the other, Jackie is intense enough to make it virtually impossible for me to teach anyone. I struggled last spring because of that. The best case was that she'd watch TV and distract everyone. The worst case was her directly interfering or freaking out when I attempted to help anyone. Even before the pandemic, because of her difficulty in social situations in the past, I really wanted to get her into preschool this year. The school agreed she needed it and let her in, which wasn't a guarantee. The thought of losing that--an actual, extended break from this extremely difficult child, plus maybe help for whatever the heck is going on with her--was one of my major pandemic-related stresses.

So, when it turned out in-person preschool was an option, I signed her up. Even though I know she might not be great at wearing her mask, and there is risk involved. My thought is that, because we have very few contacts of any kind outside of school, it's more of a risk to us than to the teachers. And we really do have a legitimate need.

I also signed up Miriam, because she did very little work in the spring. She'll do anything for her teachers, but when it's me asking, suddenly she resists. She also has a strong need for social interactions with other kids, since her brothers often exclude her and Jackie is too young. I felt that she could be relied on to wear her mask and follow the rules. And this way she will learn to read this year. I really don't know whether she would if it was just me and some video calls.

Michael and Marko are learning virtually. They are old enough to read their assignment lists and get them done fairly independently, and if they do get stuck, I'm there to help. Michael wanted to stay home, because he doesn't like school and didn't miss his friends. Marko would have preferred to go in person, but given his habit of putting everything into his mouth, I felt he would be a worse risk even than Jackie. I also kind of appreciate the chance to separate him from the bullies he dealt with last year, and to supervise what he's doing myself so that I know he actually understands what he's being taught. He's getting very little in special ed assistance now, so having me on hand is probably more useful than getting twenty minutes with a professional once a week.


So how's that going?

Jackie adores school. Just loves every minute. The second she finds out it's a school day, she jumps for joy. I can't say I was expecting that at all; even the days she liked daycare last year, she didn't like actually getting dropped off for it. But preschool is just super fun, apparently. People not getting within six feet of her is a plus.

It does seem to exhaust her. We've had a lot of hard afternoons. Two-hour meltdowns over her favorite towel being in the wash have made a comeback. Her teachers say she's as good as gold while she's there, but when I mention some of her at-home behavior, they seem incredulous. Like .... this is the child who clawed my arm this morning because there were no raisins in her cereal. This is the child who pretty much won't walk anywhere some days. It's really hard for me to deal with this disparity. Like, am I just a garbage parent that she acts so differently there than here? The teacher says it's common for kids to save their worst behavior for home, where they feel safest. But it still makes me feel like I'll never get any kind of diagnosis or help for her, because she's only like this at home.

Miriam loves school and seems to be doing great in it. Like last year, she has one best friend that she is obsessed with and tells us all about. They don't have proper recess, but they have "chat time" at their six-feet-apart desks, and also directed activities outside. She's being a trooper about all the extra safety procedures. Except the one day she had a slight fever at dropoff, and had to come home again. She was furious about it. Luckily, she turned out to have no other symptoms. Maybe she was just warm.

Michael is doing just great with virtual school. His teacher has everything very well organized. And it's nice that I'm home and can look over his work and figure out what he's having trouble with before he turns it in. Last year at school, he'd sometimes come home with whole worksheets marked wrong and have no idea why.

Marko resists some work and dives into other assignments. Everything having to do with ecosystems has been thrilling to him. Math, not so much. If I homeschool him any other year, I think I'll have to put together my own curriculum, because he really needs to be excited about a subject to pay any attention to it at all.


A plan of mine for a long time has been to get an exercise bike so I can improve my health without having to wait till somebody can watch the kids while I go for a walk or something. I finally got one off Craigslist.

It's been great, because I can put my phone up and watch The Late Show or put on some tunes and distract myself from the fact that I'm doing exercise.

I am pretty sure it's helping; I have had less dizziness and shortness of breath lately. Though taking vitamins seems to also be essential.

While the kids are at school, I finally have some time to myself. Most of that is getting taken up on self-care (like exercising and showering) and on chores, but I've had some time to write also. I'm trying to turn last year's book into a trilogy, but it's hard. I usually do one-offs for a reason.

I also have been writing some web content for a friend's business. Which means I have been getting paid to write. It's about finance, which isn't exciting to me, but honestly as long as I'm writing, I'm never bored. And I'm getting PAID. To WRITE. 


The pandemic isn't hindering us from having fun, because this time of year all the fun is outdoors anyway. We've gone to a lot of parks lately, and haven't found them crowded. Playgrounds sometimes are, but not creeks and hiking trails.

I love Virginia this time of year. Winter is bitter and summer is like being slowly steamed and eaten alive, but fall is perfect.


Which makes it a really bad time to think about possibly moving. Not far--the idea is to move closer to John's work, so that he doesn't have to spend over three hours commuting every day. But . . . the DC area is kind of terrible, even if you can afford to live in the nicer suburbs, which we couldn't.

There are a lot of good arguments in favor: greater population density means better odds for each of us to find activities or hobby groups. John could find a gaming group. I could find a writing group. The schools are better rated, and there are more autism groups and resources. We'd have an easier time getting to DC to see museums. There would just be more to do . . . at least, if this dang pandemic ever ends.

Plus, the election going on makes me feel . . . not very welcome around here. This is one of the reddest counties in the state. I've seen a lot of ugliness among the locals lately: threats to run over BLM protesters, carrying weapons to threaten ten people holding a quiet gun-violence vigil, nasty bumper stickers. I'm afraid to put up a Biden sign or sticker. I have a few friends here, but there don't seem to be any other people here I'd get along with.

But I can't shake the feeling that I need to be close to nature to be happy. Right now I can go in my backyard and not see any house but ours. There are trees on every side. I can take walks and see beautiful fall colors. A ten-minute drive brings us to the Shenandoah River, and twenty minutes takes us into a national forest.

Of course suburbs can have nature too. There are parks out there, and playgrounds, and green spaces. But there are also cruddy strip malls and used-car lots and six-lane roads. We'd probably have to live in a townhouse, with barely any yard. No matter how close a park is, a park is a trip. You can't just be in and out of the house all day like we are here.

We don't have to decide now. The plan is to move next summer, if we decide to and John is still at his current job. He very much wants to go, and I don't think he understands at all why I'm hesitant. I think some people can just not look at a tree all day and be fine. I feel I need beauty to live.

Maybe I can train my eyes to find beauty in more places. I sure hope so. I've never been happy living in a city. But maybe a dense suburb I could still do.


Kitty Kitty has finally, three years after moving here, made her peace with the rest of the house. She mostly hangs out in my room, but she is sometimes spotted in the family room, even when kids are around!

Tiger remains perfectly relaxed.


The election is coming up soon. I know hardly anyone is undecided, but if you are, I urge you to vote for Biden. I believe that voting for a major party has the best results, and of the two main candidates, Biden is the one who seems to have a conscience and operate in reality. The pandemic has shown us just how important experience and knowledge are, as our entry-level president delayed and mismanaged us to one of the highest death rates in the world.

I'd really like someone who knows the details about how our country runs and who actually cares about doing a good job. I don't think we've had that for the past four years.

Warren was my first choice, but Biden seems at least to be a decent human being who believes in the norms of democracy and the counsel of wise people. While he isn't going to turn America into everything I'd want in four years, he will restore some of the norms of civilized society, making it easier for future elections to go better than the last one did. People who won't vote for Biden because they're holding out for something better don't seem to recognize the harm Trump can do, not just to the next four years, but for decades to come by encouraging voter suppression. We need to get our country back on some kind of reasonable track before we can steer it anywhere good.

How is October treating all of you?


ficino4ml said...

Hi Sheila, good to hear your update, though it's sobering to learn more about how long are some of the rows you have to hoe. Sometimes I feel isolated being now a senior citizen whose partially paralyzed spouse is showing signs of dementia plus other ongoing issues, which only get worse over time. I hear you on the wonders of nature balanced against the -- I don't know about wonders, but at least, good side -- of proximity to jobs and, potentially, more friends. Didn't Bertrand Russell in The Conquest of Happiness say that one of the things that make up a happy life is belonging to a "tribe"? The way things are in America seems to make so many of us rather isolated - but some of the "tribes" are so appalling, maybe because they are constructed around false positions.

I push on with research and writing. Now am working on knowledge and belief in Plato and Isocrates. Three deadlines next year, yikes.

The more I read of Edward Feser the more I think his philosophical positions coalesced around right-wing impulses he already had.

Happy exercise biking and fun with kitties! (:


Sheila said...

It's nice to hear from you, Ficino! Is there somewhere online I can read your writing when it's done? I always appreciate your philosophy takes.

You're right about Feser; though in fairness, his model Aquinas was doing the exact same thing. Starting with belief, working backward looking for confirmation.

ficino4ml said...

Hi Sheila, I'm flattered that you would want to see things I've published. I'm not ready to announce my real life identity, lol. Is there a way to send a message outside of the combox?

Cheers, F

Sheila said...

Sure, just shoot it to sheilathebard...

and then, after that, once we've distracted the bots, add the Gmail bit.

Crawlers are getting smarter, but that should fool them.

ficino4ml said...

Hi Sheila, this is embarrassing, but I don't know how to do what you suggest. As the person who produces this blog, do you have access to my email? If so, please email me! F

Sheila said...

Sorry, I was being too clever by half. It's ONLY FICINO (and other real human readers of this blog) MAY EMAIL. No robots please!

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