Last Thursday we dropped the boys off at school for the first time this school year. To describe it to you I want to overuse the word familiar and keep deleting the sentences. So much has felt unfamiliar this past year, and hard in its unfamiliarity, that being familiar is wonderfully novel. And yet familiar does not fully capture the ache of normalcy that returning to our school community brought to me. It felt so good (so! good!) to see so many people I recognized and to exchange pleasantries even if hampered a bit by our masks and tinged by my worry about exposure. Our neighborhood school is half a mile from our house but I felt as though I had traversed a thousand miles that first day for how I felt a world away from our stay at home life.
Our return to school does bring me some worry about increasing our exposure to COVID19. Even as I write this a neighbor's family, whose kids attend our school, is quarantining after a positive COVID test. I'm eager to see the COVID numbers in our county to continue to go down and for the percentage of people vaccinated in our state to continue to go up. My parents arrived last week and had appointments at 3 a.m. to get their vaccines. They were one of many cars steadily progressing through the sprawling 24/7 vaccination site in the far west valley. This week Chris will receive his second vaccination at the same site although at the reasonable hour of 10:45 a.m.
Without the return to in-person school I'm thinking about our family routines, my daily routines, and what tweaks we need to make. With everyone at home these last months our days have felt all a jumble and have lacked routine, or at least the amount of routine that I thrive on. Our morning routine needs to adapt to getting the boys up, dressed, fed, and out the door by 7:45 a.m. This isn't too hard since the boys are usually up around 6 a.m. but sometimes Dash "sleeps in" until closer to 7. On mornings that Chris has a meeting I'll need to take Maeve with me in the stroller (and soon the bike trailer!) to school. On days that Chris doesn't have a morning meeting he might take the boys to school or we might all go together. In the afternoons I need to head out to pick up the boys around 2:35 p.m. and I need to bring snacks. I was unsure about returning to our post-school park routine but I think we are going to do it. The extra physical activity and free play time for the boys makes for a great transition between school and home. The boys and I wear masks although other kids do not and most other parents do not. Instead of sitting at the picnic table where I used to sit with other parents I think I'll bring my own chair plus a blanket for Maeve to sit on although she doesn't stay in one place for long!
During the day while the boys are at school I still have a baby to take care of but baby care feels so straightforward compared to managing all three kids! During the day the home administrative things I want to get done include: basic tidying up to keep the house in order, getting a load of laundry done, and prepping for dinner. I like to try to get a load of laundry done everyday. To get a jump start on this I'd like to put the laundry in the washer the night before and even measure out the soap and set the cup on the dryer. That way it's super easy to start the load in the morning. Maeve takes two naps during the day although the time can vary depending on when she wakes up for the day. The length of her naps varies wildly too. Her naps last anywhere from 35 minutes to an hour and a half. This is hard because I never know how long I'm going to have. Do I have enough time to open my computer and get some writing done? Or should I just make myself a snack and fold some laundry while listening to an audiobook? Babies are always changing so maybe her naps will head towards consistency. Hopefully especially after she turns a year old and goes down to one nap.
We like to eat dinner between 5 and 5:30 p.m. so that we have a longer runway towards bedtime. By eating earlier we have time for a family walk, extra play time for the boys, or to get all three kids in the bath/shower. Dinner goes significantly more smoothly if I've been able to prep anything that I can ahead of time (chop, assemble ingredients, even get out the pans I'll need to use). So that's something to fit into my days. I'd love to bring back weekly sweeping, mopping, and bathroom cleaning as well. We've actually been doing okay at getting these things done but I might occasionally tackle one during the day. We were having some success with having the boys help us with these tasks on Sunday mornings for the price of $0.50/task but their interest is intermittent. Having the boys help us consistently is something to continue to strive for.
With Maeve's inconsistent naps I'm not sure yet if I want to expect any creative work of myself during the weekdays. Unless Chris has a light schedule and can be on baby duty for a while. Maeve has actually been a pretty good Zoom companion for Chris on occasion so I could probably schedule a work session or two each week with him.
When the boys arrive home from school we need to re-establish the routines of having them unpack their backpacks. Lunch boxes should be put next to the sink to be emptied. Maybe over the next few weeks we'll have them start to empty and rinse their lunch containers. Chris and I need to check their daily folders for anything we need to see or sign. Both boys will have homework. Dash will have a weekly homework packet plus spelling words to practice. Cedric will have occasional homework and I think will have sight words to practice. I'm not sure yet when homework will happen. After school if we play at the park and then return home around 4:30 it will be time to start dinner. Maybe we can get them to do some homework then? Or maybe in the morning since they are usually up so early.
One routine I really want to establish is for the boys to have independent reading time. They love listening to audiobooks but have not gravitated towards independently reading physical books. I ordered each of them some new books to hopefully help the routine along. But I'm not sure yet where in our day to establish the routine. Maybe before bed although when they're tired might not be the best time to ask them to make an effort to practice reading.
As the boys get ready for bed we should get back into the habit of having them set out their clothes for the next day. We should also set up a lunch-making station on the kitchen island with a cutting board and lunch containers. For some reason this makes packing a lunch feel easier and more pleasant. While we're setting up the lunch station we could get the coffee measured out and fill the coffee water reservoir. I want to get in the habit of getting a load of laundry ready to wash as I mentioned.
Lunchboxes, laundry, after school snacks – it's nice to have the bandwidth to think about these wonderfully mundane things again. I'm hopeful that we're at the beginning of establishing new routines that will carry us through the end of the school year and into "normal" life beyond.