It has been so long now that we have been at home, and there’s just a month left of spring and we’ve spent most of it indoors. And because I’ve been dealing with a profound bout of brain fog and re-purposing your content for different audiences is Communications 101, here is the pandemic diary I recorded on Facebook of all our time up until yesterday, which has included more My Chemical Romance than I’d have otherwise anticipated, and about the amount of despair anyone could have predicted. How are you doing? I hope you are well, and that you have all of the toilet paper and hand sanitizer that you need. I hope that your Zoom calls are short and that you remember to mute your microphone and turn off your camera when you need to yell at someone or pick at your teeth.
“I’ve had six juice boxes, two Nutter Butters, a Choco Pie, and all those chocolate Twinkie cupcakes and if that’s the reason I can’t stop farting… anyway, does anyone want to hang out with me in my room?” Day 1.
Day 3. I never realized how loud Nick is and am remembering that time in 2007 when I yelled at him for not talking enough because I felt like he was keeping things from me. However, I recognize that gratitude is important in times like these and I am grateful that I have ignored everyone’s advice as to my drastic need for a hearing test. I cannot be annoyed by what I cannot hear. What I can hear is plenty.
Though I haven’t worn make-up for days and really do think I’m washing my face enough, every morning I wake up with new under-eye mascara circles. Have I ever been clean? I have never been better moisturized. Today the Zoom meetings begin and I’m going to try to make sunglasses indoors a thing. We are running out of chips and another box of granola bars has been depleted. The child is now one of those rioting Thai monkeys. Day 5.
- Chinese Orange Chicken (Omnivore’s Cookbook)
Day 6. Molly Waffles has never been happier. Hours upon hours of deep eye contact. While feral child has now watched every single thing on YouTube, we are attachment-parenting the cat. She loves the piles of warm laundry no one ever folds. She sneaks licks from every bowl of chips she passes. She waits to poop until we are all nearby. There is cat hair in my tea.
Is this the seventh day? Time has no meaning. There are buds on the tree outside my window. There is honey everywhere from when I spilled it trying to do an Instagram story yesterday. Soon it will be the season for ants. Honey everywhere. I can’t tell if this back pain is just from couch work, no longer wearing real bras (just some “bras” I bought from an infomercial four years ago), or kidney failure because I only drink coffee now. Everything is sticky. Soon, the ants. We are doing just enough but not more.
- Jjapaguri with Steak from Movie Parasite (Korean Bapsang)
Is it day 10? I have been online shopping so that more of my days can be like Christmas. This week Santa will leave me a spice grinder and vanilla bean paste. I have a Himalayan salt lamp in one of my shopping carts, it promises me health for zero effort aside from the $39 I have to spend on it, and I have a coupon. I have been sneezing, and I worry that if I fall ill I will still have to work remotely. I have four meetings over various videoconferencing platforms today, and a Google doc so we can all work together efficiently and not miss our deadline. I will remove the salt lamp from my cart, and beg the universe for the sweet release of death.
- The Un-Composed (i.e., Best) Niçoise Salad Recipe (Serious Eats)
Day 12. I have more meetings now than ever. Productivity is nodding along on a video call with your microphone on mute. In between meetings I make sandwiches. I wonder at the limits of Zoom’s skin-fix feature, and worry that my hair was overdue for some attention months before all of this and everyone can tell. Maybe I will model myself after Imperator Furiosa and shave it all off; the mascara problem persists so the look could work. Is it Wednesday? I measure time in jars of peanut butter. Buy stock in Kraft.
Today I used my threatening Batman voice to coerce a child to eat oatmeal. I misunderstood a deal in a Hot Topic email and bought him a My Chemical Romance shirt that cost me fifty Canadian dollars. In the kitchen, Nick is quietly singing the chorus to I’m Not Okay. We’re all a little emo now. Me mostly for spending $50 to purchase and ship a T-shirt, Nick because I have made every surface sticky, and the child because he is FORCED to eat DISGUSTING things ALL THE TIME. Emo is a lifestyle you come to in different ways. Apparently all of the dish towels were hidden beneath the pile of half-empty chip bags I’ve been throwing on top of the fridge. Oh. If I had known that I might have wiped the counters. Check on Nick. He is not okay. Day 13.
As I listen to my strange son cackling to himself while adding weird nonsense to his group chat, I am concerned that he is spending too much time with his father. Children call at odd hours. Gen Z are phone people? Have we taught you nothing? The video calls keep coming. Bro. Bro. Hey bro. BRO. BRO WHERE ARE YOU. Our 30 day supply of gin ran out yesterday. Day 14.
- Basically Carrot Loaf Cake Recipe (Bon Appetit)
Facebook suggests that it might be time to meet someone new, but dating right now would be complicated for several reasons. I can’t even make myself presentable to go down to the lobby and check the mail. And what if I met someone who has kids, and the next time there’s a global pandemic I’d be locked indoors with additional children? I’ve been trying to figure out if boarding schools have ceased operations during these complicated times, because why not plan for the future when we have so much time to dream. I’m not sure this is the right time, Facebook, but I’ll talk to Nick about it anyway. Day 16.
Day 17. Back to school, virtually. So far we’ve had several recesses plus a lunch break. After some art, it is time for a Fortnite break. I bought the child’s math workbook so he could keep up, but “we don’t do math EVERY day at school, that would be ridiculous.” Sounds legit. After a Fortnite break, I am told there will be cookies and possibly a nap. School is better than I remember, but I don’t think any of us are passing. “Can you teach me to play poker?” Yes.
Birthday offers from my old life appear in my inbox daily. A deal on pants, 50% off gigantic underwire bras, shoes with form and structure. I am starting to wonder if the brands really understand me at all. My birthday is ten days away. In a low moment, I clicked through an Instagram ad and ordered natural deodorant that promises to make me smell like lavender and roses, but also probably hot dogs, because now is the time to try something that may fail. Like toxin-free pit stick, or home-schooling. Day 20.
- Vegetable chow mein noodles: Hong Kong Cantonese style (The Woks of Life)
Day 23? We went to the forest because when some people don’t burn off all their abundant energy it’s converted into STRONG FEELINGS and OPEN WEEPING. So we threw boulders into the river and climbed across the fallen trees and some people peed in the woods and there weren’t other people around and everyone felt better.
Have you ever successfully copy-edited an annual report for physicists while a child hollers every two minutes for you to come see his Minecrafts? Me neither. A lot of people in this home like to talk through their thoughts to what I imagine is, to them, some sort of logical conclusion. No one here does “quiet contemplation.” No one here will look in the fridge to see what food we have before asking what food we have. It takes 30 days to establish a new habit and it looks like my family has mastered several new and slightly irritating habits ahead of schedule. I’m hiding outside. Day 25.
- 3-Ingredient Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe (Serious Eats)
Last night I drank a lot of gin and baked chocolate chip cookies and presented an accidental TED Talk on the topic of Don Johnson and his career. “DON JOHNSON IS HAVING A RENAISSANCE.” I have seen two things Don Johnson was in recently. A RENAISSANCE. Maybe I will spend a part of this weekend thinking about why Don Johnson occupies this part of my brain. I watched the movie Born Yesterday with Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith on VHS every night for three months after I got a TV with a built-in VCR in my room as a teen. It was not a brilliant movie. Maybe you can accidentally train your brain to care about things subconsciously and I trained mine to pay special attention to Don Johnson. If I’d known this was possible I would have used my powers differently. How much gin is too much. Is my mind getting sharper or am I beginning to unravel? The cookies were good. Day 30.
- 10 gin cocktails you can make in minutes (BBC Good Food)
Yesterday was my birthday and while I thought a pandemic birthday would be boring and sad, it was neither. It turns out the thing that makes me happiest is when everyone does what I want and everything goes my way. This is not surprising, especially to Nick. I turned 37. We ate almost constantly and walked in our neighbourhood and played Super Nintendo and I made ramen and cake with fresh mangoes and cream. Today everyone is being annoying and there was no breakfast platter waiting for me, so it turns out today is the day for bored sadness. Day 32.
- Miso Tori Paitan Ramen (Creamy Chicken Broth Ramen) Recipe (Serious Eats)
Day 37. I feel reasonably confident that I showered on Tuesday. The bathroom, our only bathroom, is not a refuge as Loud Son never thinks to go until it is an emergency, and every locked door is an emergency. Emergency: I need to tell you something important: <20 MINUTE FORTNITE MONOLOGUE>. Emergency: MOM. I NEED YOU TO SHOW ME AGAIN HOW TO DO GIFS. Emergency: I DRANK THREE LITRES OF GATORADE (IT’S FINE DAD BOUGHT IT FOR ME) AND MY BLADDER IS GOING TO EXPLODE RIGHT NOW, OH MY GOD MOM IT’S HAPPENING. I’m not sure if I’m not showering because subconsciously I’ve realized that eventually I’ll have my own perimeter of personal space by default. The cat follows me constantly and when I stop, she licks at my wrists and ankles in a manner I can only describe as gluttonous. Emergency: MOM SMELLS LIKE FRISKIES CHUNKS CHICKEN DINNER IN GRAVY.
- Homemade flour tortillas (Hunter Angler Gardener Cook)
Son petulantly blasting My Chemical Romance and sulking while I try to watch my cooking YouTubes is both irritating and also just like me. No one understands us. Adults are so uncool. Misery and eyeliner. Day 38.
- Easy Baked Chicken and Broccoli Divan (Cooking with Campbell’s)
Day 41. Everyone is annoying but it’s hard to know who the worst offender is. Since I’m the only one committing my story to the public record, assume I’m this family’s protagonist. I always do. An argument as to who’s being a little bitch and who is just married to the little bitch and therefore suffers THE MOST has ended in a stalemate. The cat literally requires all hands on deck. None of the leisure wear I ordered two weeks ago has shipped. The teacher is supposed to call at 2:00 today and I’m sure the younger antagonist will be honest, unfortunately. Should I have offered him more than Cheezies for lunch? Too late now. The cat is fussing. I broke our eye contact for a moment. I have to go.
- Japchae (Stir-Fried Starch Noodles with Beef and Vegetables) (Korean Bapsang)
Day 47. My coworker is aggressive and omnipresent. HOLY SHIT A MEETIN WITH FINANCE?! GUESS WHAT? BUTTHOLE TIME! BIG STRETCH! I HAVE BATH FOR YOU! I am covered in scratches. I am never alone. Finance would like us to get back to the real reason for the meeting which, it turns out, is not to witness me unravel as a five-pound cat shreds my professional veneer. BUTTHOLE TIME AGAIN! Help.
- Sheet pan chicken with chickpeas and peppers. (Me again.)
- BraveTart: One-Bowl, Overnight Cinnamon Rolls Recipe (Serious Eats)
It has been fifty days and we haven’t all spent this much time together since Loud Boy was a reasonably quiet infant, only then we could go out for early brunches where they’d serve mimosas and decent coffee. There is roughly the same amount of crying now that the child is capable of refusing to do chores, only now I refuse his constant requests to nap. He is not exerting himself. I continue to wait for leisurewear that has and/or has not been “out for delivery” for several days. I checked the tracking number and it will arrive in 0 to 11 days. It is Schrödinger’s leisurewear at this point. I am not exerting myself. Fifty days. I have aged eight years.
- Ina Garten’s cinnamon baked doughnuts (Food Network)
- Teriyaki Tofu Bowls (The Woks of Life)
Day 58. Child has developed several levels in Super Mario Maker that strangers online have “liked.” “I HAVE EIGHT LIKES!” I told him other things he can do for likes are clean the bathroom and put a shirt on, but he’s a skeptic. Everyone knows the approval of strangers online is more satisfying than a sigh of resignation from your mother when you half-ass but still technically complete a chore. “OH MY GOD MOM I GOT ANOTHER ONE!” Should I just set him up with an Instagram account so he can bask in the blue-light glow of attention and validation? Or should I scare him off the internet with tales of sinister perverts and identity theft so that he never has more followers than I do? Murder perverts it is.
- Judy Hesser’s Oven-Fried Chicken (Food52)
My favourite emails from the school come from the PE teacher, who appears to be thriving. Each weekly email begins with a humblebrag about how he has managed to stay active, and proceeds with a list of things your kids can do to stay active and rather than explain the steps, if you do not know what he is asking your inactive children to do he invites you to Google it. Every week the activities are the same. I think I could have been a really good PE teacher since I too do not care if anyone is meeting their daily physical activity requirements. Remember in Grade 8 when instead of sports they had us do Tae Bo videos in the weight room? I think I could have been a really good PE teacher. For his fitness activity today, I am sending the child out with his father to find me a latte and bring it home to me without spilling, just like our PE teacher in high school who they made teach French for some reason. He did not speak French. If you were lucky, you could be the one to leave French class and grab him a vending machine Coke. I still do not speak French. Is it too late to become a PE teacher. Day 61.
- Chocolate buckwheat cake (Smitten Kitchen)