It’s all pandemic all the time around here. Try as we might to be normal right now, this is not normal. There are semblances of normal, such as our family breakfasts. There are unexpectedly wonderful things, such as my sister and her kids reading my kids a story over Skype. And there are weird things, such as not seeing the friends and neighbors I rely on, count on, depend on seeing every day.

Outside time with Littlewoods

We’re in a bizarre middle ground where incredible experiences are bubbling up, but they’re competing with serious existential dread. This is the third in my new (very much unplanned) series on life in the time of a global pandemic. My first post addressed immediate financial and health concerns, my second post discusses ways to help others, and today covers my family’s isolation schedule.

Since I have two little kids, I have to create routines and structure for them. And for my own mental and physical health, I have to follow routines and structures. So, we’re formulating a pandemic schedule. We’re figuring out what can get done during which hours and when the kids do actually, finally lose it, to put them in the bathtub (magic cure-all for whatever ails a toddler). I do not have all the answers. I actually have precious few answers. But that’s never stopped me before. Know that this is an imperfect reflection from an imperfect person.

We Probably Have A Long Isolation Ahead Of Us

At the forefront of my mind: we’re only on day nine of isolation. And I project and imagine and think that this isolation could last many more weeks, if not months. In light of that, I realized I have to implement a sustainable way for my family to get through this. We can’t let the kids watch TV and eat sugar all day every day (what I personally would like to do) because this might not be a short-term thing. I can’t stop showering and exercising and cleaning the house, because this very well might be our new normal for at least a few months.

For my sanity, for my husband’s sanity, for our children’s well-being, we are trying to formulate a system for how this quarantine plays out. It’s not like it’s cataclysmic for us to stay home. My husband and I are introverts, we love spending time with each other, and our kids are too young to grasp how weird it is that we’re not going anywhere or seeing anyone. We’re BEYOND fortunate to have a lot of land for the kids to play on, for the adults to hike in, and for us to be alone outside. So I don’t write this from a place of deficit, rather, I write it from the realization that I am awash in privilege and abundance. Everyone is impacted differently by this virus. Everyone has a different risk level, a different risk tolerance, and a different approach to this most unnatural time. I’ll share what we’re doing, with full cognizance that it might differ wildly from your reality right now.

Working From Home With Kids (WFH: more like WTF)

Kidwoods building a fort(?) from scrap wood

Folks keep asking how my husband and I work from home with our two kids and the answer is that, under normal circumstances, we don’t. Our four-year-old goes to preschool and our two-year-old goes to daycare. Since there’s no school or daycare right now, my husband and I are taking it one day at a time and constantly re-adjusting our schedules.

The best solution we have is to trade off on childcare duties. My husband watches the girls in the mornings and the evenings, and I take the middle of the day. That’s pretty much it, you guys: we trade off. Nothing magic or Waldorf-inspired, just good old fashioned division of labor.

We’re also making sure that each parent has dedicated time each day to exercise alone. The way this is playing out is that I go for a hike in the early afternoon while Littlewoods naps and Kidwoods watches television and Mr. Frugalwoods works. Then, he goes for a hike in the early evening and comes back inside to manage the bath and bedtime routine.

Making sure we each get outside alone to move our bodies is proving transformational for our outlook and mental health. I will say that we were already a routine-oriented family, pandemic or no pandemic. Given that, it’s been pretty natural for us to fall into a Coronavirus Construct. If you’re not normally a schedule person, this approach might not work for you. But I need something to tether me to reality and right now? A schedule is my jam.

Here’s the stuff we’re doing everyday:

  • Eating healthy meals: we’re sticking with our normal, (mostly*) healthy diet to keep us on an even keel.
  • Getting outside: I take the kids outside to play at least once a day, two or three times if it’s not too cold or rainy/snowy.
  • Exercising: my husband and I each have time every day to exercise alone (either hiking outside or doing a yoga video inside).
  • Talking to friends and family: texting, video chat, phone calls, and emails, it’s a virtual party around here. Mr. FW asked me to silence my phone because all the bings and dings were driving him crazy.
  • Showering and getting dressed: I’m wearing earring right now, people. No one can see them, but I assure you they’re there. Getting up, showered and dressed does wonders for me every morning. I’m going nowhere, but I look good while doing it.
  • Varying the kids’ activities: while our kids do a lot of independent, free play (which I love), we’re also looking for ways to incorporate novelty into the routine. I am definitely letting Kidwoods watch more television than normal, but I’m not letting her watch TV all day. I’m trying to allow for greater flexibility while maintaining normalcy. There have to be some rules around here, people.

*while supplies last, more cheese, wine and chocolate are involved than normal.

Kids’ Activities

Eating popcorn off the floor while meow-ing…

I want to spend some time on the kid activity thing since I struggle with what to do. I would like to be one of those parents with color-coded activity chart/plan-things, but I am not. I would like to say that I have a “homeschool agenda,” but homeschooling is something I have nightmares about on the regular, so we are winging it.

I’m jealous of my homeschooling friends and, in my negligence, I’m letting my kids lead. And sometimes, that leads to them eating popcorn off the floor. Keeping it real here, people, I have childcare for a reason.

Here are some activities that’ve been working for us so far (mind you, I wrote this ONE WEEK in, so I imagine my day 20 log is going to look different):

Yoga! A Frugalwoods reader suggested Cosmic Kids Yoga and it’s essentially the best thing that’s ever happened to me as a parent. The instructor is incredible and she tells a story while guiding kids through a yoga class. Kidwoods follows along really well and I do the classes with her. Littlewoods mostly screams, tries to climb on top of me, and then settles on doing downward dog for 10 minutes straight. Hey, you do you, Littlewoods.

Littlewoods: lover of the bath

Small organizing projects! This is more for me. I’m guiding the kids through organizing small areas of the house together. We did the craft shelf earlier this week and we’ll tackle their bookshelf next. This is a way for me to feel productive, to accomplish something and for the kids to start taking greater responsibility over their stuff. And also for them to jam crayons into each other’s faces and for the baby to pointedly rip her sister’s coloring book and for them to un-sort whatever I’ve just sorted. No worries, we have nothing but time, so we just sort again.

Longer than normal bath time! My girls love playing in the tub, so we’ve started putting them in there earlier in the evening so they can splash around and fight over bath toys for longer than our normal schedule allows. We did run out of hot water thanks to this the other day, but other than that, total win and the kids are cleaner than ever.

Cooking and baking together! This is excellent if you have a lot of time on your hands and are not goal-oriented. The girls helped me bake bread the other day and to clean up, Littlewoods licked spilled yeast off the countertop. The bread came out great (lopsided, edible), so I’d say it’s a win all around.

Ill-fated attempt at purple eggs

Having low expectations! I allow them to eat popcorn off the kitchen floor as they pretend to be cats. Nothing to see here, we’re obviously 100% fine and great.

Making weird foods! The kids are on a scrambled eggs kick (thank god our neighbor sells us eggs) and they’re on a quest to try out every different food coloring combination in said eggs. Here’s what I will say about that: do not, under any circumstances, attempt to mix red and blue food coloring in an effort to make purple eggs. Photo at right should tell you why.

Video chat story time! My sister and her kids read my kids a book over Skype the other day and Kidwoods sat with rapt attention while her aunt read her a story. I cannot believe we haven’t done this before. During the story time, Littlewoods knocked a cup of water over onto the floor. Then, as my sister and I attempted to talk to each other like human adults, Kidwoods climbed onto my shoulders, causing me to fall backwards with her still on my back. My sister helpfully took a photo.

Video chat storytime with the grandparents!

Video chat sing-a-long! My in-laws also led a video chat story time for the girls and my mother-in-law read them books, followed by a singalong with my sister-in-law playing the piano and my father-in-law singing. It worked so well that we’ve put this on the schedule for three times a week. I, for my part, was able to put in a load of laundry, empty the dishwasher, and read the entirety of War and Peace while the kids were entertained by their aunt and grandparents.

Busting out the presents! You know how I buy toys, books, games, and art supplies from garage sales and then save them to gift to my kids (and their friends) for birthdays and Christmas? Oh yeah. You better believe I’m raiding that gift box right now. I’ll have to double down on garage sale shopping this summer to replenish the stash. I’m meting out one new toy/art supply per day, usually in the afternoon when everyone gets scream-y but it’s too early for mommy to start drinking.

Lots of art! It’s possible I will never get all the marker and crayon off our furniture, but I will have stacks of art to show for it.

Hanging In There With Low Expectations

Bike v. Snow: we’re ready for spring

As I write, I can hear my husband playing dress-up and dancing downstairs with our daughters. This is not their normal weekday morning routine and the girls are loving extra time with their daddy. I am not normally trying to work while the kids are screeching about the house in glee, but it means my daughters get to see me working and learn more about what I do for my job.

So no, this is not exactly an ideal or uplifting time, but it’s the time we have. This is the virus we were all dealt, this is the pandemic we will hopefully live through and I’m trying to find ways to embrace and enjoy this rare opportunity to be at home. Only at home.

I’m using technology for social interaction. I’ve had video chat dates with my girlfriends, phone dates with friends who live far away, and I’m recording podcasts for work (FYI: right now is a REALLY good time to invite me to be on your podcast 😉 😉 ).

Popcorn on the floor: the best

Things I’m not doing: levying major expectations on myself or my kids. I’m not deluding myself that I’m going to create an incredible homeschool curriculum while they’re home.

They go to school for a reason and I’m at peace with the mediocre level of my teaching abilities (I tried to teach Kidwoods to count to 20 for about five months; she went to preschool and could count to 30 in a matter of days… ).

I’m not putting massive expectations on myself. I’m not envisioning this as a time when I need to be a magical fairy mom that I’m not. Heaping more requirements on myself right now isn’t helpful. I don’t need to have an ideal Montessori-inspired grow chart for each day.

I just need to keep my kids happy and fed. If anything, now’s the time for me to embrace simple family time: coloring together, going outside, eating meals as a family. If I keep it simple and have minimal expectations, we’re going to be fine. P.S. I’m trying to post on Instagram daily, so if you’re looking for photo evidence that you are not alone, join me there.

What’s your schedule these days? How are you coping with isolation?

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  1. We’ve honestly been more or less social distancing since December, since my 3rd child was born prematurely. That’s not to say that this still hasn’t been challenging, but it has been lessened for us because we were kind of already used to it. My biggest thing that I’ve been reminding myself of is what happiness experts advise, actually—they say that rather than pursue happiness itself, the best way to feel happy is to chase purpose and meaning. So I’ve been making sure to start each day with a purpose. Rather than waking up and thinking, “Well great, another loooong day ahead with no escape anywhere,” I’ve been starting every day by saying, “Today, my purpose is to find someone to help / Bake homemade bread / Clean out under the bathroom sink / Finally finish that book / Watch a photography tutorial” It’s helped a TON.

    I’ve also been making myself put on my Fun Parent hat more (admittedly, not one I wear as often as I probably should), and I’ve been coming up with some fun ways to entertain the kids (albeit ways that require minimal hands-on participation on my part), which I blogged about this last week.

    When I do feel anxious, I make sure to stop consuming the news (for several hours, if I can), and I exercise and consciously practice gratitude, which seems to work better for me than just replacing anxious thoughts with positive ones.

    Thanks for sharing your schedule, and I hope you guys continue to be healthy and safe!

  2. To be honest, it’s insane. We have four kids – 10, 8, almost 3, and I had our fourth 2 weeks ago. Our normal life is that our oldest two go to school and our third goes to preschool 4 mornings a week. I work part time from home. Of course I’ve taken a break from work with the new baby. But also, we moved out of state over the weekend. So now I’ve got 4 kids at home, four million boxes, and we had already been subsisting on sugar for weeks because of all the upheaval. Now I’m facing potentially our boys not going back to school this school year.

  3. I’m on day 12 of 14 days of isolation in a Chinese hotel chosen by the government, and I’ve been largely self-isolating since January 28 as I hopped from country to country avoid this thing and trying to figure out how to teach my high school students in China online in a culture where that doesn’t usually happen (note: these are public high-schoolers, and the system there is very different from VIPKID or other private online teaching companies).

    I thought of you because I am leaving teaching in June after 12 years (pre-COVID19 decision), and all I want to do is curl up in a cabin somewhere in the U.S. where I can leave to get groceries when I want and dedicate myself fully to expanding a series of side hustles into a full-time income.

    I know your life is very different than mine (I am single, childfree and still indebted), but I still appreciate your voice. Your honesty. Your candor when it comes to the childcare thing. It just helps to know I’m not alone, you know? Especially after 12 days of reporting my temp. twice daily to local authorities and not being able to leave this hotel room. So, thanks.

    1. Oh wow, Abigail. That sounds like a tough situation. I’m sorry to hear it and I hope you’re doing ok!!

    2. Abigail,
      That sounds really rough. I’m sorry you are stuck somewhere that’s not “home”. Wishing you health, peace and patience.

    3. Thanks for your perspective. It helps to hear what others are doing as it gets very lonely for me also without any little kids around. I hope you have continued good health

  4. I’m in Australia with my husband and 10 month old. We took our baby out of daycare just two weeks after he started because of the virus. I had put him in early to get him used to it before I went back to work from maternity leave. I am still going back to work in a library on Friday which is closed to the public. We don’t know if it will close properly soon. My husband works from home and his hours and pay are up in the air while this is going on because he works for a small business. Luckily we have a large emergency fund and my job is more secure because it is local government. I have been reading your blog for years and read your book which the library I work for has in it’s collection. Our community is putting teddy bears in the front windows of houses for children to spot on walks with their parents, as we are still allowed to walk outside with the people we live with.

    1. Erin, this idea is brilliant! I’m going to see if we can get my neighborhood to do this. My youngest would love counting the teddy bears!

      A few days ago, I noticed everyone in my neighborhood (homes with and without kids, both!) had drawn and written messages in sidewalk chalk at the end of their driveways so that when we’re all out walking, we can see cheerful messages and cute pictures of animals and even inspirational sayings. Rain washed them all away the next day but it was so heartwarming that I am still smiling every time I think of it.

  5. It is over 30 years since my kids were your’s ages, so I’m wondering how do you explain ‘social distancing’ to them?

    1. I have just been telling my kids (who are 4,4,and 7) that there are a lot of people sick and the best way for us not to become sick to stay at home together. They have taken it pretty well so far, mainly because I was a stay at home parent for all of their lives and they are used to hanging out at home with me.

    2. I told my kids that a lot of people are sick, and to help make sure more people don’t get sick, their preschool is closed and we play at home.

  6. AMEN to all of this. Here’s to lowering our standards and our expectations of ourselves as mothers, ignoring the color-coded charts and just getting through our days. There IS something peaceful about having nothing to do and nowhere to go. (I am an introvert too, so yes, this is not wholly painful for me) As soon as our governor announced school closures, I decided on the spot that we would do one hour of school a day (I have two boys, 8 and 5) and no more, and I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. No way on this earth was I going to attempt “homeschooling” or replicating what my two kids get at school every single day. I just wanted to do enough to keep in touch with the material. One day last week, when it was actually not raining and gray and 40 degrees but instead threatening to rain and gray and 66 degrees, I said screw it, we’re spending the whole day outside. And we did. And it was wonderful. 🙂

    We will get through this!

  7. Here’s my contribution as part of the Team Kentucky Quaran-Team.  We made up this song and wash-along video to teach effective handwashing and now this song is STUCK in my head–and that’s a good thing.  If we could encourage our young-uns to wash with this song (and us too) maybe we could stop this thing quicker.   This was actually written during flu season last year when I was thinking “if we were dealing with ebola, we’d want to do a better job washing our hands. Singing the happy birthday song is not enough. Let’s sing THIS!–ZkEzgfg
    Thanks for sharing.

  8. A few things for kids you may find helpful-
    @wendymac has a drawing lesson every day on instagram for kids at 10 PST. My daughter really looks forward to this. Geared towards young kids.
    Follow Pete the Cat on instagram for live stories daily read by the author. I’m sure there are other authors doing this too.
    The Oregon zoo on Facebook or YouTube feeds an animal each day and does a little lesson at 9:30 PST.
    If you follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Facebook they have been doing a guided meditation with a relaxing video (more for me than the kids) for a daily lesson, book and activity. Preschool and grade school lessons.
    I hope this helps someone. I’ve never been more thankful for the internet.

  9. I love how you said you were wearing ‘earring’. Just one. LOL I imagined you putting one in, smiling in the mirror and then distracted by kids eating purple eggs off the floor. 😂😂😂😂

  10. Hi, from Europe, Belgium. Over here the Covid 19 pandemic is taking over. People are afraid when watching footage from Italy or Spain.
    Horror. We are not in complete lockdown and can still go outside to exercise or walk or go to the grocery store. Luckily we live in a rural area where we can do things outside. Mainly enjoying the little things.

  11. Here’s what we’ve been doing:
    Fortunately our 13 year old has been willing to take on a lot of the childcare though it’s gotten more difficult for him this week since he’s been given actual homework and the 7 year old has only been given either boring busywork or projects that require an adult. So we’ve been ignoring her homework and have her on a permanent weekend chore routine instead.

  12. Thank you for your updates and keeping it real, which helps to keep perspective, at least for me, during all of what is going on around us. Be well!

  13. We’ve discovered Cosmic Kids Yoga too and it’s amazing, our kids love it. Another one that is fun is Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems (you can find it on Youtube) for a little art too.

  14. Having a crack at homeschooling my 11yo and 7 yo on Mondays and Tuesdays (he’s into it, she has her moments) then gratefully escaping to my frontline but minimal patient contact NHS job Weds-Fri. I’m all about routine at the best of times, so that’s what’s working for my days, and my oldest is the same so he’s good with that; I’m trying to give the youngest a bit of leeway as it’s less what works for her. Husband pretty much out of work (self-employed). It’s a time of doing whatever keeps you sane without winding up anyone else in your family! There’s a lovely movement in the UK to put rainbow pictures and paintings up in the window for people to see when they go by, and the pictures my two did at the weekend are making me smile every day, highly recommended.

  15. Single parent teleworking here, not pretty, not educational or screen free. But it keeps a paycheck coming for a job I might not have in a few months.

  16. Thank for the post! We’re not trying to “homeschool” here, and we’ve been doing many of the same activities you’ve been doing. My husband is in healthcare and is gone most of the time, so I don’t have anyone to trade off with. Just taking it one day at a time and trying to stay positive.

  17. You’re being a great Mom……no one should have homeschooling expections right now, unless that’s your old normal, the new normal IMO is stay safe and sane. My and my husband are still working, I put on gloves when I go to the grocery store. Fortunately we live in a small rural area, with lots of space

  18. Hi Liz, thanks so very much. Believe it or not it’s grounding to see your posts. As a parent of a 40 year old and 36 year old, I can smile and only imagine the challenge you four are facing. 36 year old and serious girlfriend were up as result of job changes and relocation. Our typical small tight Boston suburban home is coping well with four adults working from home. Hang in there, and thanks for stories. By the way, unless you may be celebrating “be a Pirate day” (not a bad idea actually), you likely put on earrings (s). Just a proof read aside from a devoted reader.

  19. I’m glad you’re posting this stuff, and it is helping me to feel less alone! My spouse and I are both working (haha trying!) from home in our small condo with a very screechy and rambunctious 3-year-old, and I’m also in grad school part time which has moved online and now just seems constant instead of limited to the Saturdays when I used to have class on campus. It is all so hard, and in the city it’s impossible to fully isolate if we’re going to get any fresh air or activity at all, and we don’t have space for a months- or years-worth prepper pantry. I know that my kid will bounce back relatively quickly when we ever get past this, but every day feels like an eternity right now and it’s hard to really care about work with all the distractions.

    We do a ton of FaceTime, Zoom, and Facebook video calls with friends and family. We have watched Frozen and Frozen II a billion times each, and we watch a lot of Peppa Pig as well. I’ve been baking a lot, and kiddo has been doing a lot of coloring with Color Wonder markers that don’t mark up anything besides the special (expensive but worth it) paper. Just day to day getting through it…

  20. I don’t know why I didn’t think about video chat story time before. my 4 and a half year old would get bored of video chatting after a few minutes but once I pair and started reading to her she would sit there captivated. They even suggested reading a chapter book which I wouldn’t have necessarily thought she would have the attention span or but is really enjoying.

    We are also doing some family movie afternoons and watching some beloved childhood movies. Last week we watch the Hanna-Barbera cartoon version of Charlotte’s Web I’m thinking about doing wizard of Oz this week

  21. First of all, GIANT HUGS to everyone! My “babies” are 32 and 28 — one teaches English in Japan and the other works at our local grocery store. Can’t imagine what I’d do if I had to supervise lessons and stuff like that.
    DH just had a stent put in an artery 6 weeks ago, so we were staying close to home before all this began. I am cleaning out file cabinets and desk drawers, staying in touch with loved ones via email & phone (we kick it old-school around here, LOL), and walking every day. Thankfully the pantry is pretty full, so we’re going to use up those items. I’m feeling the need to be by myself. Like, a lot. As in, 6 months in Tahiti. Not sure what to do about that. I guess the best advice is what other people have said… take it one day at a time.

  22. I’ve got a 3 month old, was just getting back in the groove of full time work when this hit. Trying my best to keep up from home. We are expected to stay at home until April 8th or longer if the Govenor of IL extends the stay at home order.

  23. Oh man, this is a challenging time. It’s just two people and a cat for me, but as a part of a money saving thing we’ve been doing, we live in an RV. On a regular schedule this works well, we live in an expensive city and this gives us a chance to save much more than our counterparts for which we are grateful, but usually we are out, working, visiting others ect. Now we are both inside a 27ft RV ALL DAY EVERY DAY! wowza.

  24. Reading your posts is like talking to a beloved sister. I feel calm, inspired and tickled-your little ones are adorable and the delight you take in them is awesome. (Also, the popcorn picture is amazing). Thank you and your husband for carving out the time to continue to write.

  25. I absolutely love the photos of your kids eating popcorn off the floor. I laughed out loud when I saw it on Instagram and laughed again when I saw it here. Hang onto your sense of humor; we all need it during these times.

  26. We could all use a little levity, so thanks for the laughs! Too bad you didn’t have any ham to accompany those green eggs. But the girls eating popcorn off the floor and meowing is the best!

    I don’t have kids, live in a condo association in a major city, and still go to work (nurse!), so I have not suffered from a lack of human contact or connection. Sometimes I actually wish I could be forced to stay home like so many others, but I know single people who live alone and work at home are especially struggling with loneliness right now. Parents with small children have an entirely different struggle, so it’s not easy for anyone. But I’m glad you’re doing a great job with your situation! No perfection necessary. As long as everyone’s alive and well, that’s all that matters.

    I actually love how people are forced to reconnect or connect more often through technology. It’s a reminder about what matters most, like your family reading to your girls. Stay safe!

  27. you are doing amazing compared to our family! and I second the exercise… we walk in our neighborhood but make sure we keep our distance from others.

    Also, since you’re on a big plot of land, when the weather is warmer and the dirt isn’t a mud pit, could you guys camp outside on the weekends? maybe as a “vacation” during the crises? We are hoping to camp at a camp site (we don’t rough it…) but most camp sites will rightfully-so be close probably until this all dies down so we’re kind limited on any form of “get out of the house vacation” type scenario. But we’re alive! so that’s something I tell myself daily to be grateful for.

  28. I enjoy reading your posts. They bring back so many memories. My children are grown but when they were younger, we too used the tub as a playground. One of the best things we ever discovered was that if you put food colouring in shaving cream, the colour won’t stick to the tub or to skin. No substitutions allowed! It must be shaving cream. We would buy the cheapest shaving cream on sale. With dishes of different coloured “paint” and paint brushes, the kids made many happy memories in the tub! They still talk about it.
    Stay healthy!

  29. yes, tons of bathtime for our 4 year old twins as well.
    luckily my husband is a full time stay at home dad and I work in my home office so really things pretty good here!

  30. now’s a great time to disrupt former routines, toss them aside, form new ones or adopt few/none at all. Since I’ve WFH for 10+ years, that’s no different, although I do miss the business travel to see customers. If we adapt to these new normals and so many equivalents are offered online/digitally, what will anyone really need to do in-person/bricks & mortar? At least we have not had any mass shootings this month.

  31. LOVE this, thanks for keeping it real! We’re in the middle of an out of state move, meaning my husband already lives in the new state for the new job (which thankfully he still has), while my son and I stayed behind to finish 1st grade. Hubby left end of January, so we were just getting into the swing of our “new norm” when the virus went crazy and we have to establish yet another new norm. Honestly, my son is struggling with losing Daddy, losing his friends, losing certain freedoms and favorite activities, etc. Our school is asking us to continue the learning by providing things for them to work on, but it’s a battle! Having to give myself grace and pray daily for patience. I feel like my facebook feed is full of moms “loving the together time” and showing their happy homeschool kiddos, so it’s really refreshing to hear your honest perspective.

  32. While I already worked from home a few days per week, it’s now full time. My wife is also at home full time working as well. We do not have kids but have one dog.

    We are actually thriving at the moment. I’m not saying it couldn’t get old but we’re able to go for a 1 mile walk around lunch time each day. Our home offices, one make shift, are on separate floors and we both like the ones we have (she took mine and I made the new one work just fine.) Our house has more than enough space for two and when the weather gets warmer we have a screen porch we’ll be able to use.

    We get together online with friends and their kids to play specific games which work well through Steam. A virtual board game and a pictionary style game as well. Then we just do a conference call. We may try streaming a Netflix movie at the same time with others using a utility to make sure that the timing syncs; it’s like calling a friend in 8th grade to watch a tv show together.

    Now, what I read in this post and mostly in the comments is the kid factor. I can’t relate at this time. However, ask me how I feel about not having kids in 35 years when it would be nice to have grandkids and someone to help take care of me. It’s a trade off and having kids is a great investment. Stay strong parents!

    Definitely in the gratitude camp. Could one or both of us lose our jobs? For certain. But right now we are both able to work from home and given that I’m in the high-risk category, I’m happy to do so. Plus, I don’t want to get others sick. Exponential growth for investments is great; but it’s also great for epidemics, which is certainly bad for us all.

    And for people who may be single, I hope you can make phone calls with family and friends at the very least. Or if you are able, to talk to neighbors across the fence (stay at least 6 feet away!) We all need social interaction to some point. And if you have a pet, what a blessing in these times (and pretty much all the time.)

  33. We have started doing naked bathtub painting before bathtime. Just regular washable paint and a couple of paintbrushes. They paint the walls and themselves and then it all washes away really easily and they take a bath. Try it if you want to extend bath time even longer!

  34. Quick heads up: popcorn is a big choking hazard, and is not recommended by the AAP for kids under four. This is not meant as a criticism! Your kids are clearly safe chewers, so you’re doing great! I just don’t want anyone looking at your very cute pictures and assuming that all toddlers can safely handle popcorn (my own 2 year old is a TERRIBLE chewer, and clearly wants to swallow his food whole, like a snake).

    1. Was going to say this too, NOT in the spirit of criticism, but information-giving. The husky inner part of the kernel can get lodged in their airways if they aspirate a piece and will not respond to the Heimlich. Popcorn in the list of foods like hotdogs and grapes that are more dangerous for toddlers/preschoolers.

  35. I LOVE Cosmic kids yoga.

    My husband is going into work (in a lab) at 4 am, and then he comes home at 1, where I sign in downstairs to start my 1 pm – 9 pm workday.
    Typically, we have to go to work at 7 am, so our 3-year old wakes up between 5:30-6 on her own. Now I just really want her to sleep later!!! I also have a 10 month old, who is not sleeping through the night.

    You are so good about getting the kids out in all sorts of weather, but I hate the dreary, freezing, rainy days. So we feel very cooped up. And I am so so tired

  36. It’s so weird how this is a big deal to many and a total nonevent to my wife and me. We still run with the handful of friends in the early dark deserted streets. We still play tennis. We still hike and go fishing. Other than attending church via radio nothing has changed. We don’t have jobs, the market drop is an insignificant change in our net worth. I am concerned for others but I can’t drum up even a minor concern for ourselves. The idea that this is worth worrying about, that’s just not a thing.

    1. I’m jealous that a 30% drop is insignificant to you.
      We are still doing fine, but we’ve lost more money than we make in several years.

      1. We are down a half million but it isn’t money we ever planned on spending so I called it insignificant. It is still a large sum but I worked longer than I needed to from a money standpoint because I was having fun at work. Plus we don’t even have half our portfolio in stocks so we saw a much smaller % drop in value than the market did on a percentage basis. It is only insignificant because we were never going to spend it anyway, but now our kids who stand to inherit everything someday, it might be significant to them! But we also went through 1987,2000 and 2008. And we were 100% stocks then while we were building our nest egg. It did not feel insignificant then, but we stayed 100% in stocks, never sold anything and it did come back, every time. I didn’t mean to minimize the pain people are feeling, its real, but at my stage of life I have far more money than I have years to spend it and that changes the way you value things a little. Great post, they always are!

    2. I’d suggest you check out the writing online of medical professionals in NYC (my beloved hometown) and other areas hit by the pandemic to understand why this is a big deal and social distancing is advised even (especially) for people who feel unaffected. My state is recruiting retired doctors and nurses and health care workers from other states on an emergency basis. ERs and ICUs are full. Health care workers who suspect they are infected must continue to go to work. This crisis is real.

  37. I’m wondering how you explained to Kidswoods that she cannot go to school right now? I know how much she has loved it, and she must miss it–that must be hard to explain to her. My own child is 10 so she understands all this, but it is still really hard for her–we were out of the country for three months on a long European trip, and she got back to school for only ONE WEEK before all this started. So she feels really rotten and misses her friends. We’re doing a minimal school schedule to keep her in a routine, and video chatting with friends, cousins, and her classes, but still this–this is going to take a toll on her emotional health.

  38. Something my daughter is loving, give her a flyer and ask her to cut out pictures. Then go over them with her and read the prices together. Also working on numbers. Win win

  39. Small child in gin aisle: “Look, mummy’s Calpol!” 😀
    No kids here but I work in local government so I’m doing all covid all day and my brain hurts. Spending literally hours on supermarket websites trying to get food delivered as I have (lower risk) underlying conditions. Got up at 5am this morning and ordered for my mum but DH had to go to supermarket at 6am because we couldn’t get a delivery for weeks.

    But I’m absolutely glad I didn’t have to spend 2 weeks in a windowless cabin on a quarantined cruise ship!

    I’m trying to shower at least once every other day and wear real clothes to work in our home office so that I feel human. Had a lovely walk in the sun yesterday as we’re allowed out for exercise once a day. We’re planning for at least 12 weeks isolation which sometimes seems doable and other times not real. I’ve found my emotional resilience is low so I’ll be fine and then a simple thing will set me off. Thankfully my therapist counts as essential medical need so as long as we’re both well we can keep those appointments.

    Love hearing about your days 🙂

  40. Heard my teen run through the house this morning to his room, late for school on his laptop. Just like he ordinarily bolts for the bus. Even in a pandemic, some things never change. Glad school is still, uh, “structuring” his day…

  41. Those eggs are stuff of nightmares. Yikes.

    We’re trying hard to stay busy at home, but holy cow, it’s tough to entertain a toddler and baby alone all day.

  42. I’ve been social distancing since 2017 when I inherited this house in semi-rural VA . I am a transplanted urban liberal sort living in a very conservative rural/small town area where everyone has known everyone since childhood and they all hang with each other or go to church together for social life. Newbies are not especially welcomed, especially newbie liberals who don’t attend church. I m retired and on a fixed income so my income is not affected like those who still work,. No kids, just the two of us and the cat. The cat adores the fact that I must stay in-more quality time for the cat! I was starting to build a photography business but that has ground to a halt because I can’t travel or shoot portraits and do street photography. So far, we are okay with supplies except that finding toilet paper is like mining for diamonds – rare and lots of work going around to different stores to check the supply. WTF is up with all the toilet paper hoarding? THAT is nuts! In the area people are starting to hoard guns and ammo. That is truly scary because isolated and panicked people armed to the teeth is not a good idea.

  43. I’m working at home, my husband is (for now) still working outside the home in construction, and our 11-year-old is at home. She is doing some schoolwork in the mornings on her school-issued iPad. I always hated that the school made us pay for those dang iPads, but I guess I’m slightly glad now. She is also video chatting with her friends a lot. We found virtual dance lessons, so she’s doing those this week. I have lunch with her and try to spend about an hour or two throughout the work day doing something with her (outside time, cooking, chores, etc), plus we do activities in the evening. Some of my work is getting done earlier in the morning or later in the evening than I usually work. And to be honest, some of it is just not getting done right now. I am ok with this (let’s be real, I rarely produced a straight 8 hours of work to begin with).

    One thing I wanted to mention – we did the Frugal Month challenge in January and were able to get down to using just my income for living expenses, and saving 100% of my husband’s income. We stuck with that in February and early March. I am SO glad we took that challenge because we are ready for whatever happens with my husband’s job now. My job is secure for now (at least as secure as anything can be). I will say though, I am regretting that we paid ahead for summer camps and the like… we still have a six-month emergency fund, but I would feel better with that money sitting in my bank account for right now instead of theirs! That’s probably a habit that I’ll change in the future.

  44. I’m in lockdown in New Zealand (just officially started) and I am throwing school work out the window. My children are 7 and 5 and they are terrified. We’re focusing on having fun, getting exercise, video chats, reading books, bear hunting (gosh, whoever thought of that, I love you), and lots of free play, baking etc.

    My son had several meltdowns yesterday, so we spent the evening watching a silly movie, snuggled on the couch. I needed that just as much as he did.

    Stay well, everyone xoxo

  45. Hi from Australia and love and safety to you MRS F, the Frugalwoods Family, and everyone.

    I am (was?! 🙁 ) a self-employed freelancer who works from home. I’ve got this! I thought, I work from home all the time…but already the first couple of months this year, my invoices took a hit with the impending doom. By March I was down to hardly any work, and just this week, the 2 companies I work for have shut up shop. So, we’re living on that emergency fund we all talk about building and keeping for the ‘just in case’ times. Well here they are!

    Our government have offered some lifelines, but from one day to the next, thousands, hundreds of thousands? of people were out of work (we have a massive tourist and casual workforce and there are no tourists, and the government have closed restaurants and other non-essential businesses) and so there were heartbreaking scenes of people lined up around the block (not social distancing) at the employment offices trying to get help. We hear stories of people trying to call for 6-8 hours on the helpline and being on hold all that time then getting cut off. We figure, we are in trouble here, but we have our little bit of emergency savings to pay our bills (how did THREE big ones come in just this week???!!!!!!) and buy food when we can (cue looking at empty store shelves)…so we will sit tight and let those who are truly desperate right this minute (living pay cheque to pay cheque) get support first, then we’ll try again a little bit later. I don’t see my work picking up for some time (I work in recruitment and assessment and those companies are all in the same boat and not hiring). I had already started scanning for jobs in the first couple of months of this year, and now I’ve applied at all the essential places I can think of (hospitals, supermarkets etc) as they’ll need to bolster their workforce. My husband has some health issues, so he hasn’t been working, and was on a surgical waitlist, which they’ve just cancelled (and he was so close to his turn!!!). We’ve also been very cautious with him because of his lowered immunity.

    We had pretty much been physically distancing (as we should start calling it….as we can still have our social connections through the internet and phone etc, which is such a privilege !!) the last few weeks already and only going out for groceries while others were thinking we were a bit odd or over the top…no, we just saw the wave coming and listened to the doctors and medical professionals elsewhere. We’re introverts and we love being in our little ‘right-sized’ home (which we only bought 6 months ago !!!!!!). My husband plays guitar and I’m learning piano. We painted our ceiling fans and laundry tub which we’ve been planning to do since we moved in, and we’re cooking!! We’re also, as you mention, keeping to our usual routine. Getting up, getting dressed, I get on my laptop and look for work instead of doing work, we do our chores, and we’re even keeping our ‘good’ weekly routine and only having our little drinks on the weekend as normal !!

    We usually go and do some cleaning and gardening for our elderly parents (Eddies folks and my Mum) but we’ve not visited now so as not to put them at risk either. We’re thinking we can probably go and do some of my mother’s gardening if she stays inside and chats from the window and we’re out in the garden, but we’re yet to see if that will work.

    Take care everyone xxx

  46. I have to echo the praise for Cosmic Kids Yoga! My first-grader knew about it from school, so we’ve started doing them in the mornings. Good to read of your experiences; I think you have a healthy perspective on all of this. It won’t be perfect; we shouldn’t stress about a perfect replication of school (school is far from a perfect environment anyway); we are privileged if hunkering down at home with kiddos is the “worst” we endure right now. My heart breaks for so many who are suffering due to this pandemic, whether due to this illness or to the economic impact.

  47. Really, you are so so lucky to have outdoors space!
    I live in madrid, which is now pretty much the epicenter of the pandemic. It is a horrible situation here, and our heroic doctors and nurses simply cannot cope . In spite of having a great universal public health system, people are dying without being properly tended and without being able to say goodbye to their loved ones
    I consider myself very lucky because I did not get it (in spite of going to work by public transport until march 6th), nor did my husband or my parents who are risky population. However, I envy the people who have outdoor space, I live in a 80 sq mt flat with a small balcony and that’s it . I wish my 4 year old was able to run outside.

  48. Hi Liz,
    You have been such a support to me for financial planning over the years, maybe I can return the favor in a small way. I was homeschooled from 4th-12th grades and (I think) I turned out ok. My Mom home schooled me for those years, and she had no special training. The gift she gave me was her time, and I would not trade that for anything in the world. You’re right, this is temporary and I think it’s a good idea not to be put high expectations on yourself or your kids right now. Let me offer some ideas that may help you and other new home school parents:
    1. Let your kids play! (I won’t explain further as you’ve already done so)
    2. Get help! Ask your friends, what they are doing, or how they handled an assignment. You don’t have to do this alone! Just as you’re having relatives read stories to your kids, you can trade off subjects/activities with other parents over video chat, this also gives your kids a chance to see their friends. Granted this will look different depending on your children’s ages.
    3. Invite your kids into what you are doing. (Take with a grain of salt, if course there are things that won’t make sense, and you do need personal time too). They can help* with chores and don’t always have to be entertained. Again it depends on age, it depends on your child, you know your child best. In my experience, my mom didn’t talk to me like a child, she treated me like a person. I’m a firm believer that kids can do more than we give them credit for. Give your kids some chores – age-appropriate ones, and they can be more like games than work.
    4. Do science ! There are so many easy, at-home science experiments you can do with your kids. Most have instructions for parents and will explain the concepts. Even if your kids are on the young side, a lot of it is just fun to do! Make slime! Grow seedlings! See how detergent affects milk with food coloring (color explosions!). Plus it adds something novel to your day. Mommy Poppins has a pretty good list, or just Google “easy science experiments for kids. ”
    5. It’s ok (perhaps re: older kids) if you just do one subject a day – is your child feeling like reading? Maybe spend Monday doing English/History and do Math on Tuesday (though at some point you do want to get through all the subjects).

  49. In our area folks are putting rainbow drawings on their windows, doors and sidewalks for children to spy as out walking.

  50. I made my two boys try on every single item of clothes, even underpants and socks, and we discussed what they actually liked, and what still fits them. I had fun, kids tolerated it. We now have a big bag of hand-me-downs ready for friends when that’s a good idea. We also explored our basement which was fun.

  51. Liz, your girls eating popcorn off the floor made my day! That photo is hilarious and knowing they were meowing like cats made it even more sweet. It brought me right back to when my kids were that age. Thank you for your blog.

  52. I wanted to add that is trying to help with the heavy lifting of homeschooling and entertaining. They are a completely free resource and have put up suggested schedules and learning activities for students 2-18 years to try and help keep them engaged. We’re trying to manage living through a pandemic with a health worker parent and a child who is Class of 2020…Hopefully by summer life will look a little more familiar for all and every week won’t seem like a month! Good health to all!

  53. Those popcorn pictures! Thank you…I needed a good laugh and THAT provided it. I’m right there with you Liz. Thanks for the great post.

  54. Two weeks in and there’s no denying that this is rough. I’m in the NJ suburbs of NYC. We’re on the fringe of the epicenter, essentially. Life is calm and beautiful in my little town still–my husband gives thanks routinely that we’re here in a house instead of back in our apartment in the city–but the infected count rises hourly. My kids are 8/6/2 and the older two miss their classmates and teachers. I wish I could dig into all the experiential homeschool-type learning experiences I always dreamed of giving them, but I’m teaching my own high school students from home. It’s really an impossible situation for everyone. Even my homeschooling friends are mourning the loss of their usual extracurricular meetups and activities. Thankfully, my kids like to read, so even if the math worksheets sit untouched I know they did something beneficial for their brains that day.

  55. This is so hard. We have a yard to play soccer and horses to ride. My almost 5 yo is an only child and missing her friends at preschool. She cried today and told me she hates Coronavirus and will never have fun again. Her grandparents’ birthday /Easter visit is on hold. I am a healthcare worker and feel like I can’t just stop looking at the news because I need to know what’s going on. I want to kiss Ms. Cosmic Kids. Can’t imagine doing this in an apartment.

  56. Here in SC our governor had to order the coastal rentals to shut down & not allow rentals for 30 days! Really people now IS NOT THE TIME TO TRAVEL! For some reason people think I’m off work & the kids are out of school, so let’s go TRAVEL to some place out of state & spread this thing even faster! They have even had to shut down the Great Smokey Mountains National Park & then they found out a ranger had the virus. Common sense really isn’t all that common! People need to take this seriously & protect your own health & the health of others.

  57. Here’s an easy homemade “game” that my daughter loved when she was old enough to not eat things she shouldn’t: the sorting game. Mix an assortment of dried beans in a container. Put one kind of bean in each compartment of a muffin tin. If more of a challenge is needed, use chopsticks instead of fingers to move the beans from the container to the muffin tin.

  58. Hey,
    I have to recommend this amazing website for you Mrs Frugalwoods:
    They have tons of games to play with toddlers, with minimal setup or items needed. They also have a facebook group where mum’s share activities for preschoolers and toddlers.

  59. I love your whole series. If you haven’t read them, may I recommend to you Shirley Jackson’s memoirs (Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons). Your blog of late has taken a delightful turn and is somewhat reminiscent of the erstwhile horror queen’s reflections about raising children in rural Vermont. I believe you’d enjoy them.

  60. Hello from Quebec, Canada! We are starting our 3rd week of isolation here. My kids are older than yours (8 and 10) so they are much more autonomous (thank God!). Hubby is working from home, and the kids stay busy with a routine/schedule to do every weekday. It looks something like : a time for outside play, an artistic session, exercise, chores of the day, school stuff for an hour, screen time for an hour, going out for walks or bike rides after lunch and dinner with the parents. I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to work outside of the house (hospital), but I’d rather be able to work AND avoid Covid (not happening). Enjoy your free time/safe time at home!

  61. We live in Italy. We have and are struggling, as a country, with our infected, and with our death toll. Mrs. FW is doing a great job isolating, but lots of the US is not taking this seriously. The Italian Prime minister ordered a nationwide lockdown on 10 March. In the US, it is still left up to each state Governor to decide what is to be done. Then, for instance in Florida, it is left up to the individual jurisdiction.
    I have lived 20 years in Europe, but I am an American. I fear with all the infected in America, what is going to happen.
    Bravo to all of you doing your part. Compassion is key.

  62. I don’t think i’ve seen anyone mention how smart it is, during lockdown, to reflect on all the smart things you did with your money leading up to this. I mean, those of us who cut unnecessary expenses recently (i even went so far as to go carless last summer) are just thrilled to pieces that we did, and if nobody else is going to praise us for that, then why not give ourselves that praise and that positive reinforcement?

    To some extent it is back to the old “frugality gives you options”, because during times like these, it feels SO good to have the means to buy three extra credits on you Audible membership. I am also able to spend more on fresh produce, to be a little healthier during lockdown. Oddly, i even bought two cute skirts, and two pairs of tights (i usually do not do such things, much less pay full price retail), to prance about in, during the “outdoor activity” we are allowed.

    I feel like i have a lot of self transformation projects during times like these. Getting my step count higher. Eating so much better. Many, many audiobooks going on too! But now is a good time for some carefully chosen indulgences, as many have already figured out. 🙂

    For those who had a strong emergency fund in place, this can feel like a sabbatical. Or retreat. Or staycation.

  63. It sounds like your life resembles mine a lot right now. Suddenly all four of us are at home trying to establish a new normal where both adults work and both kids continue learning. It definitely feels like WTF! I have been hearing a lot of recommendations for Cosmic Yoga, so I think I will have to make time to check it out tomorrow. Another great post!

  64. Not sure this applies if you don’t have a big stockpile of dried beans of various kinds you can use but…. When my kids were the age of yours — past the age when they would stick random objects into their noses – to buy myself a little time while I was prepping dinner I would fill a large rectangular container, actually a roasting pan, with dried beans of all kinds. Inside I would have put several “treasures. “Things like a penny or a dime store ring or an old spare key or whatever I found. I would change treasures every day. It would keep the kids really busy sorting and digging in all those beans for a little treasures. Plus I figured “Hey we’re going to cook them anyway before we eat them so it’s probably fine to use them anyway.” It’s also a good sensory activity if you have kids with sensory issues.
    If you don’t have beans, you could just look around the house for whatever you have a lot of that would be good at hiding stuff.

    If you are getting any deliveries to the house, save all the boxes. We would do box towers in the living room of cereal boxes or packing boxes or whatever. The kids would stack them up and charge through them. The bigger ones I would let them decorate for a little club houses.

    We also made completely ineffectual terrariums from stuff outside. they didn’t grow or anything… I wasn’t going to the level of making sure the kids got all the roots of little plants but it was just to assemble something in glass and look at it and enjoy it.

    Another activity that I used to pull out when desperate was rock painting. Yes I stockpiled rocks. When things got dicey around the house I would pull out a box of rocks and paint and let the kids go at it.

    You already are doing baking but another good activity is noodle making. Egg noodles are super easy to make it home and the kids can cut out funny shapes or long ribbons. It’s really fun for them to eat their own creations. You will get flour everywhere of course.

    We also would have art night. I would cover the table in blank newsprint… Now you would probably just need to use whatever you have on hand like paper you have printed on one side but not the other… Tape it all down and have piles of crayons on the table so we would have a family draw night while we eat supper. The kids thought it was a big deal to draw on the table so to speak.

  65. PS just remembered another small sanity-saver activity we used to do: weather permitting, take a whole bunch of small toys that are the same kind of thing, e.g., those Fisher-Price little people or Lego blocks or something, and when you are having alone time outside in a defined area hide them. Then later give each kid a little bag tell them what they are looking for and where the boundaries are and say see how many you can find. My mom used to do this for us with candy but I would do it with toys or even spray painted rocks. The kids loved it when they were in weird spots like on the branches a small tree just about there I level or in a mailbox or a bird nest or something else weird. It’s something you can kind of set up when you’re just outside by yourself and for me it was good for 20 minutes of the kids running around while I sat down and drank a coffee. You can also do it inside the house.

  66. We have found the lockdown (we’re on week 4, here in Spain) a very interesting experience.

    It has made us reassess our habits and the way we were doing things.

    We have also learned that to feel safe in early retirement, having a stash of cash is not enough. You need flexibility too!

  67. LOVE this, thanks for keeping it real! We’re in the middle of an out of state move, meaning my husband already lives in the new state for the new job (which thankfully he still has), while my son and I stayed behind to finish 1st grade. Hubby left end of January, so we were just getting into the swing of our “new norm” when the virus went crazy and we have to establish yet another new norm. Honestly, my son is struggling with losing Daddy, losing his friends, losing certain freedoms and favorite activities, etc. Our school is asking us to continue the learning by providing things for them to work on, but it’s a battle! Having to give myself grace and pray daily for patience. I feel like my facebook feed is full of moms “loving the together time” and showing their happy homeschool kiddos, so it’s really refreshing to hear your honest perspective.

  68. This is a great post! Trying to maintain some sort of normalcy during this quarantine is key.

    We recently added a new addition to the family, and are trying to find a routine in a world that has thrown us off a routine. I appreciate the examples you provided to keep the kids busy and away from junk food.

    My wife has been doing a great job of having our 4 year old crafting. She has been painting pottery to keep her stimulated, so we don’t have a disaster on our hands!

    Kudos to all the moms out there hitting home runs off the nasty curve ball thrown our way! Keep your heads up and know your doing well! Improvement will come one day at a time. Enjoy the time with family, even if the little ones go crazy in quarantine!

  69. WFH… more like WTF! Ha ha ha.. I agree. Working from home with kids is not easy. Me and my husband are taking turns. He looks after the kids while I work. It’s tough but anyway a good new experience. Hope this COVID-19 goes away soon.

  70. My children are adults now, but I spent every moment with them as I could as a stay at home mom while hubby was active duty military. Now, possibly getting custody of grand, I plan to do the same. People are like what about social interactions with their peers? Have you ever thought about how your great great great grandparents handled their eleven or twelve children? You taught them survival skills. How to plant a garden, how to milk a cow, how to can fruits and veggies, how to sew. I knew how to sew at age nine because my mother taught me. She wasn’t concerned about my making mistakes or injuries because that’s how we learn. How will our children learn survival skills in a jungle of a world if we don’t teach them ourselves. Food for thought 🤔

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