The Top Five–Things I Miss

I’m sure we’re all missing things from our old “normal” lives…here’s a look at the top five things I’m missing, and for once, it’s exactly five items, and I didn’t even have to think to come up with them!

  • Church/Choir–This one was a no-brainer. I am thankful for our online church services, because we can still hear the Word, but it’s just not the same. I also really miss hearing my family sing in their various choirs at church, even though I am not musically gifted myself.
  • Extended Family/Friends–Another no-brainer is missing visiting family and close friends or having them visit us. Again, I’m thankful for other ways to communicate, like phone, text, or video chats, but it’s still not the same. We’ve already missed out on so many opportunities to gather that should have been on the calendar, and that’s just sad.
  • Chicago–I really missed our annual Memorial Day Weekend trip to Chicagoland. I missed it so much, I even created a virtual vacation. Not getting to see the skyline, and especially Lake Michigan, was really hard for me, and even though I enjoyed looking back through photos from previous trips, once again, it’s just not the same.
  • The Missouri Botanical Garden–I guess this is the number one St. Louis area location I’m missing. Normally, we go to the Garden at least once a month, and in the springtime, it can be more like once a week. Besides missing walking around the Garden and seeing all of the beautiful flowers in bloom, I’m also sad that I had to abandon my yearly photo project.
  • Wandering Around Target for No Reason at All–This is a silly one, but still a big deal to me. I really miss just impulsively stopping at Target and looking for absolutely nothing in particular. There have been some weeks (including one right before COVID-19 became a big deal), where I have literally stopped at Target five days of the week. Even if I don’t come out with anything, there’s something fun about shopping there, but I haven’t stepped in a Target for over two months!

What do you miss most from life pre-COVID-10?

Eighth Grade Graduation

Tonight is Moose’s junior high graduation. Since I couldn’t get a cap and gown picture (the school never even made it to the point where they would order them before things shut down), this one outside of his school will have to do!

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K to 8

Today is Moose’s last day of junior high (his virtual graduation is yet to come, on Thursday). Let’s take a look back at every first day of school from kindergarten through 8th grade!

And his last days of school in kindergarten and 8th, kind of. The kindergarten graduation picture was easy, but his “last day” of 8th grade took a little more thought. I didn’t get a picture of his actual last day of classes at the physical school, because at the time, who could have known that would be the last day? So I decided on the day about two weeks ago when we dropped off a few things, and picked up his 8th grade stuff, including a nice sign they had made for our yard.

Up next…high school!

Peacefulness

We were supposed to go to Chicago later this week. Since we obviously can’t do that, I’m thinking back to our trip last May, with a picture from the Sears Tower’s Skydeck Ledge, and a quote from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

“Anything is peaceful from one thousand, three hundred and fifty-three feet.”

Grocery Shopping During a Pandemic

I keep recommendations about keeping a journal during the COVID-19 pandemic. I haven’t done that, although the topic does come up in many of the things about which I write, but today I thought I would look at one of the biggest impacts this event has had on my life: grocery shopping, something that I have to do tomorrow.

I have always enjoyed grocery shopping. As shopping services have become more and more popular, I have continued to go the store myself. I actually like taking my time to select produce and cuts of meat, and I like doing a bit of impulse shopping here and there, picking up a new item or something that looks interesting or that I think my family will really enjoy. In the past, I would go to the store once a week and buy most the items we’d need, but I always left the door open to the possibility of running out to the store to pick up something I forgot, or even buy the ingredients for a whole new meal I decided I wanted to make.

But now, everything has changed. Because we are trying to limit our exposure to the outside world, I now go grocery shopping once every two weeks. Do you have any idea how challenging it is to shop for enough food to last a family of seven two full weeks? Writing a list that long is exhausting in itself, and I usually start on it a full week in advance, in an attempt to not forget anything, but the actual grocery shopping process is something else altogether. It involves two carts, (and blisters on my hand when I’m through from pulling them both…I wonder what the total weight of two overflowing carts is?!?), which is a neat trick when you’re shopping alone (although a helpful Walmart employee who is my new hero showed me how to hook two carts together like a little train last month, and that is a lifesaving technique!). And those two carts are always completely full by the time I hit the checkout.

It takes about two hours to complete a shopping trip that large, and that’s with me being in line outside the store when they open. I usually buy six gallons of milk, and about 25-30 pounds of various meats. I’m sure that other shoppers think I’m a hoarder (and I have actually seen people laugh at my antics!), but there are SEVEN of us at home, four of whom are teenagers. This is simply the food we need to last two weeks! I haven’t run into purchase limits on food yet, but I fear that’s coming…three packages of meat or two gallons of milk certainly won’t last our family very long!

I’ve started buying a lot of extra produce, partly because I’m afraid that eventually, the supply line for fruits and vegetables will break, and I want to make sure we’re eating them while we can, and partly because I want to make sure we get all the extra vitamins we can right now. And I spend extra time in each aisle, making sure I can’t think of anything I forgot to add to my list while I peruse the shelves. I imagine this is also annoying to people, but I’m beyond caring.

Once I get home, it takes me at least another hour to put everything away. If you think fitting enough food for all of us into the carts is an impossible task, imagine trying to find room for it all at home!. I have perfected my refrigerator and freezer Tetris game, (although I’m still working on my pantry Jenga game!), but something is still likely to leap out and attack whoever has the nerve to open the doors. And while I’m thankful that our pantry is well-stocked, it is a complete disaster, because it’s just not big enough for everything I try to cram in it!

Sometimes I dream about the day I can go to the store and buy only what I need for one week. Without having to wear a mask and deal with my glasses fogging up. Or just run to the store to pick up that missing spice, or the ingredients to bake something. Or even to bring a helper with me to push one of the carts, because even with the train technique, pulling two fully loaded carts is hard on the shoulder by the end of the shopping trip! But I also wonder if I’ll ever really feel comfortable shopping again, if I’ll ever really enjoy the process of grocery shopping like I used to. I know there will be a new normal, but I’m having a hard time imagining what that will look like at the grocery store!

Mother’s Day, Isolation Style

Like everything else lately, Mother’s Day this year looked a little bit different from our normal celebration. I still took a picture with the Fab Five, and I even wore my Mary Blair mother and child print dress from Pinup Girl Clothing, but we had to take the picture at home instead of at church…not being able to go to church was probably the biggest disappointment of the day for me!

In the end, dinner ended up being a lot more special than usual on Mother’s Day. We never go out, because I just don’t have the patience for it, and I often end up cooking…something that I enjoy, but usually something pretty simple. This year, I decided to splurge. Since we can’t go to Chicago in a few weeks as we had planned, and won’t be stopping for lunch at Portillo’s on the way home, I decided to bring Portillo’s to us, with their mail order service. I thought the price was very reasonable, especially given how much meat they included, it wasn’t hard to heat up, and I’m not kidding when I say it tasted almost as good as if we had been dining in the restaurant!

Dessert was another splurge…as long as we were already having a Chicago day with dinner and the movies we watched (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, While You Were Sleeping, and Save the Last Dance, plus catching up on a few episodes of the Michael Jordan documentary, The Last Dance), I decided to order an Eli’s Cheesecake. It was also delicious, and again, almost as good as having it in Chicago!

These are strange times to be living, but I think we’ve been doing a good job of adapting and creating new special memories!

Thirteenth Birthday, Isolation Style

Today is Ladybug’s 13th birthday! We now have FOUR teenagers in the house!!!

We started the day with cinnamon rolls, per her request. They weren’t homemade, but honestly, the ones that come in the can are pretty good!

Present-opening was up next…I think she was happy with the gifts she received!

We spent the afternoon watching some of Ladybug’s favorite movies (Spider-Man: Far from Home, Spies in Disguise, and Tron: Legacy), while she worked on her new Lego set. We also had a socially-distant visit from our pastor, which really brightened her day, especially since she couldn’t have her grandparents visit or go anywhere interesting.

Speaking of not going anywhere, since we couldn’t go out to the Bosnian restaurant Ladybug had originally been planning to visit for her birthday dinner, I attempted making cabbage rolls for the first time. I think they turned out ok!

Ladybug asked for a guitar cake, and I think it also turned out pretty well. The strings were even straighter than I usually manage! As always, I was tickled that the words “Happy Birthday” have exactly 13 letters, which makes for the perfect candle arrangement on a 13th birthday cake!

This was our third birthday celebration in the time of COVID-19, and at this point, I’m guessing it won’t be our last. I think we’ve managed to find fun ways to celebrate, even if it’s not the way we would usually do things!

Tasty Tuesday–The Wine Tap (At Home)

Ryan and I have visited The Wine Tap on Main Street in downtown Belleville several times, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared the experience (which was lovely every time we went). As is the case for every restaurant in our area, the dining room is currently closed, but last week, they had a carryout special of charcuterie and cheese, so we decided to support a local business and give it a try.

As you can see, I took extra care to plate everything so it looked nice, and almost like we were at a restaurant. The cheese and meat selections were excellent (I love getting to try new things!), and I was amused by the spring-themed tulip and butterfly-shaped crackers. We were also able to get a bottle of wine (Zinfandel) to go with it, which was an extra-special treat.

Obviously, this isn’t something we can afford to do regularly if they keep offering options like this, but it was nice to support a local place in a tough time, and fun to feel fancy at home!

Penguins and Elephants

Someday, I’m going to learn how to share the photos I’ve taken in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, but until then, I’ll keep sharing fun shots from Pocket Camp!

The Last Time

It’s official.

The state of Illinois has ordered schools to remain closed through the end of the school year.

It’s a decision I knew was coming, and one I agree with, but it’s still hard. My heart hurts for Moose, who won’t get to finish his eighth grade year at his junior high, who won’t get to have his final band concert, or walk at his 8th grade graduation. My heart hurts for the teachers, who don’t get to see their students every day, too. And for all of the school district employees who have unexpectedly found themselves without work.

But my heart breaks, most of all, selfishly, for what I’m losing. Our afternoon walks to and from Moose’s school.

Almost since he started early childhood education at the neighboring elementary school at the age of three, we’ve made a habit of walking to pick him up when the weather was nice. Not during the very early days in preschool, I guess, because our subdivision was so new then that it didn’t yet have a stop light. But once they installed a crossing, we would walk in the fall and the spring. Initially, those treks would involve a stroller, as first Ladybug, and then Chickadee, was too small to make the two-mile round-trip on foot. Eventually, though, we ditched the stroller, and all enjoyed walking together.

There were occasional days when interest was low. The rare cold winter morning when, because Ryan needed the car for something, we would have to walk, regardless of the temperature or precipitation. Or a hot spring afternoon, where walking again was a necessity, but not necessarily enjoyable. For the most part, though, we chose our walks when the weather was pleasant, and it was something I looked forward to as the temperature cooled off every fall, and as it warmed up in the spring. We would notice changing leaves, blossoms and flowers, and animals along the way. And we would talk…about everything. Sometimes, the children would recite memory work for catechesis or poems they memorized for school. Or we would talk about current events, or plans for upcoming holidays, or just whatever we were interested in at the time. The topics have changed over the years, but the enthusiasm for discussion remained the same.

I knew this would be the last year, after so many years throughout early childhood, elementary school, and junior high, that these walks would be an option…the high school is not even close to within walking distance. And I intended to make the most of our time. Which I think I did…to a point. To the best of my somewhat limited ability, anyway. We walked many afternoons in the fall, making up for the days in 2018 when I couldn’t do so because of my broken ankle. And I had plans to continue to do so this spring. We did walk a few times in 2020, on the rare nice winter day. But if I had known that March 11 would be the very last time we would make that trip on foot together…I don’t even know. I don’t think I could have enjoyed it more. Maybe I would have attempted to slow the moment down. Maybe I would have tried to make the walk last a little longer. But if I had known then that would be the last time, I hope I would have done something to savor that last opportunity just a little bit more, especially knowing what I know now about what was coming…