What a difference a few weeks makes. Since my last newsletter, we’ve entered full lockdown mode and it’s very unclear how bad and how long this will be. It’s hard to even reconcile what’s happening—it’s that big and that unprecedented. I feel bleakly amused that Lilly won’t stop belting “Into the Unknown” while she runs around the house.
At the same time, having two kids at home is a good way to distract yourself from existential dread. It’s been pretty bonkers trying to keep them healthy and happy without the pressure valves of playdates, outings, and school—and borderline impossible to get anything done/keep our wits about us. I can’t imagine doing it solo and have so much respect for all the single parents out there (not to mention even more appreciation for caregivers and teachers). But Rob and I are also very aware that we probably won’t have this much concentrated time as a family ever again so we’re trying to focus on the daily wins and and take the days as they come.
Here are some things that are helping me stay sane and happy right now:
Overindexing on gratitude: When I realized that we were about to be shipwrecked on our own personal island for the foreseeable future, I dug out an empty notebook, had Lilly decorate it with stickers, and deemed it our family Covid-19 journal. Every night, Rob and I add highs (teaching Lilly hopscotch in our very appreciated backyard, making pizza dough) and lows (meltdowns, crayon on the walls, meltdowns, pencil on the walls) so that when we’re through this we’ll be able to look back and remember what it was like. I’ve also been copying my friend Dawn and posting a daily gratitudes list on IG Stories. Even on the worst days (and there have been a few), I know how crazy lucky I am.
Seeing beans get the respect they deserve: It turns out it takes a pandemic to shed a light on what Rob and his fellow beanophiles have known for years: they’re affordable, sturdy, and delicious. There’s a lot bean content out there right now but seeing as how I live with an expert, here’s a quick edit:
- For a full rundown on all things bean, check out Melissa Clark’s NYT feature.
- For the single most luxurious bean recipe you should try, go for Carla Lalli Music’s Brothy Butter Beans in Bon App.
- If I had to pick two kinds of legumes to have on hand at all times, I’d go with chickpeas (the best in grain salads but also excellent in pastas like Sarah Copeland’s linguine with broccoli, kale, and ricotta) and white beans (so luxurious—try them mashed up with tuna and a little lemon, or pan-fried a la Heidi Swanson).
- Rob says: Remember that bean varieties are different, so if you’re at the 2-hour mark, worried that your beans aren’t turning beautifully creamy inside, you may actually be using a starchy variety that is doing exactly what it should be.
Crowd-sourced kid-pleasers: I’m on a group text with a handful of parent friends and it’s been an incredible source of moral support as well as kid entertainment ideas. Some gems: Kinetic Sand, which has displaced Play Doh in our house as the moldable toy of choice; Cosmic Yoga, a YouTube channel of smart and engaging yoga videos for kiddos; Lego bathtime, self explanatory; and nail painting, which was surprisingly successful.
Our virtual helping hands: We’ve been beyond impressed by how Lilly’s preschool has handled this situation. Her teachers are bending over backward to help us create routine and keep the kids engaged and happy throughout this—everything from a daily Circle Time via Zoom to 1:1 chats to printable art projects and easy-to-follow activities. Our other savior has been grandparent story time. While there are plenty of amazing virtual story hours hosted by libraries, authors, or bookstores, we’ve found that Lilly can’t focus when it’s a stranger or a new story. But have Grandpa Jay and Grandma Martha read Madeline—well, you’ve bought yourself 30 minutes of hands off time. Takeaway: For young kiddos, aim for familiar faces and familiar material.
A well-edited list: My friend Nick started a newsletter called Quarantzine that pulls the best intel from our network of friends (former editors, food experts, parenting gurus) to create a manageable and useful list of things to do, watch, eat, etc. I guarantee you’ll find a handful of excellent tips each dispatch.
Proudest DIY moment: My DIY abilities fall short of most hot-glue-and-felt type projects so I was absurdly proud of myself when I created a rainbow rice sensory bin for Lilly. It’s as simple as shaking white rice with vinegar and food dye, then tossing it all (quick pause to take a snap of the different colors lined up) in a bin. She loves using spoons and cups to fill and refill things, and seeing the different sounds and tracks her toys make in the rice.
Making staying home “an act of kindness: “I’ve been a fan of Girls’ Night In founder Alisha Ramos for years and have been so impressed with the brand and community she’s built. Now, in addition to their self-care focused newsletter, they’ve launched a new site aimed at this moment in time: Stay Home, Take Care. It has has daily changing recommendations on ways to take care of yourself and others, filtered by goal (“I want to entertain my kids,” “I want to connect with others”). I especially appreciate their caring for kids spreadsheet! They’re also using the project to donate to Jose Andres’ World Crisis Kitchen, an incredible non-profit.
Taking on achievable tasks: The other night, Rob stayed up well past bedtime to finish an 1000-piece puzzle from Jiggy, an awesome new direct-to-consumer puzzle company. He said that he just wanted to do something achievable in this phase of uncertainty. Beyond that, it’s also the prettiest puzzle we’ve ever done and I’m already planning to buy a couple more. I met the founder Kaylin just a few weeks ago and loved hearing her story—she was the first employee at theSkimm and found herself regularly doing puzzles as a meditative counterpoint to startup hypergrowth. All Jiggy puzzles feature work by emerging female artists and come with puzzle glue so that you can frame the finished product if you like.
Hanging out on the regular: Despite sheltering in place, I’ve “seen” my friends (including some who live far away) significantly more than I would during normal times. Like many people, we’ve been scheduling FT and Google Hangouts playdates, happy hours, and random wellness check-ins. While I wish I could just stroll over to see people, it’s been incredible connecting and reconnecting with so many people and I hope we keep our virtual hangout habit when this is all over.
Sanity in sweat: As many of you know, we’re lucky enough to have a Peloton and I have never been more grateful for a piece of hardware. I’ve been trying to move every day, whether that’s a ride or a bodyweight or yoga class on their app and it’s become my main mode of keeping grounded. Their app is excellent and they’re doing a 90-day trial right now—definitely recommend checking it out. There are also a million amazing studios doing virtual workouts, including Mala, my favorite yoga studio. I took my first Zoom class this morning and was so impressed at how Angela was able to make it feel personal and intimate.
And finally, as someone who lives and breathes food and loves restaurants for all they provide and stand for, it’s been heartbreaking to see the economic fall out of Covid-19. I feel pretty powerless but am doing what I can with small actions: buying gift certificates and donating to our local favorites (La Vara and Rucola, among others); signing the ROAR petition to lobby for federal relief for restaurants and restaurant workers; and supporting any restaurants that have shifted to takeout and/or wine shops.
Sending love and hugs to everyone. Stay home, stay safe.