As we settle into our new routine of isolation, I’m trying to find ways to make this experience sustainable for my family. Our school district is closed for the rest of the school year and our state issued a stay at home order last Wednesday. Many of you are in similar positions and no one knows exactly when (or how) we’ll return to “normal.”
To cope with this uncertainty and disruption, I bring you a compilation of suggestions from Frugalwoods readers. We all have different family structures–some live alone, some in multi-generational households, some with five kids, some with a dog–and we live all across the globe. But the common thread we share right now is that our routines are changed.
This is the fourth post in my new (and 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, the third covers my family’s isolation schedule, and today we’ll see how others are coping.
We’re being advised to practice social distancing, which entails staying at least six feet away from anyone who does not live with you. The goal of this distancing is to stop, or at least slow, the spread of this contagious virus.
As we all adjust to this new reality, each of us struggles with a different element of social distancing: for some, it’s loneliness, for others, it’s the chaos of having a full house all the time. Today we’ll explore the many ways people are handling isolation and quarantine with creativity.
As I compiled your suggestions, three pieces of advice cropped up again and again:
- Follow a routine. Many of you cited the importance of a routine to keep you tethered.
- Get exercise. Most of you noted how crucial exercise is to your well-being.
- Connect with friends. Via text, phone, video chat, or through six-feet apart outdoor conversations, finding a way to stay engaged with friends and family is key.
Let’s get to it!
How Frugalwoods Readers Are Staying Healthy and Sane During Isolation
Roxane shared, “My neighborhood is currently doing a “scavenger hunt” (organised through a local facebook group) where you draw a daily picture and stick it in your window for the kids (or adults!) to “find” on their walks. For example: On St. Patrick’s Day, the picture of the day was a four leaf clover. If you wanted to participate, you simply made a four leaf clover and stuck it in your window. That day, I walked around my neighborhood with my daughter and counted/found 12! It’s a fun, free activity that brings the community together and encourages you to get some fresh air!”
Megan wrote, “We’ve just started here in Australia. Day 2 for self isolation, it’s a hot day so we’ll be going down the beach and keeping our distance of course. I bought a lot of painting supplies, both for art and for painting furniture.”
Kristen said, “We have 50+ miles of trails for our community only, which means they’re not crowded at all. We have a healthy number of trail monitors as well and the other communities know this, so pretty much stay out. I sometimes feel this is very hoity-toity of this area, but it’s to protect our environment and keep it from becoming overrun like the public trails. I’m in CO… trail use is a big issue here. 🙂 I’m continuing to mountain bike, trail run, and hike to get outside, stay healthy, maintain my normal activities, and socially distance myself to boot! I come across people occasionally, but it’s easy to maintain a distance. We’re SO fortunate to have this luxury. I’m one that *needs* to be active for both physical and mental well-being. I am also thinking I’ll start a home yoga practice as I’ve done yoga for ages and it’s probably just laziness as to why I haven’t done this before. Well, laziness, but also I like the sense of community at my free yoga classes (that are now cancelled).”
Carolanne said, “Just took the newly ‘ homeschooled’ to the rocks on the beach across the road. We gathered shells – and he identified them from Collins seashore book. If it gets bad, we shall let him loose on the Collins Food for Free . . . ❤️”
Liz wrote, “We have designated outdoor reading time, and try to go for quick local walks — no yard to speak of but generally pretty deserted on the streets so we can do this without violating social distancing.”
Socially Distant Socialization
Sarah said she’s, “Sending Marco Polos to my friends, and eating lots of popcorn and watching movies every day with my kids. We can’t visit my grandma who lives next door, so we meet her outside on warm days and sit apart from each other on lawn chairs and catch up.”
Live Stream It!
Jessica said she’s doing, “Lots of reading for the kids, virtual storytimes from local bookstores, zoo live stream (Cincinnati), live stream ballet class for my 3 year old (Beyond Ballet Cincy), making cards and going on walks to the mailbox to send them. Starting seeds for our garden, baking. I’m learning my lifestyle isn’t that different from before but will miss interacting and hugging the people I love. Happy to have lots of ways to stay connected these days!”
Pauline wrote, “I’ve been doing more yard work than usual. We still have our streaming movies, and tv is still on so Mom is happy. We can download all the audio books we want from our library even though it is closed. The library is having a streaming story hour every day for the little ones, and they are going to start streaming stuff for older kids and adults. It’s just weird not going to the store every couple of days, but I stocked us up well so can last for a few months – not that I want to, but it’s an option!”
Kristi compiled a wealth of online resources for us, for which I’m very grateful! Here they are:
- The Cincinnati Zoo is doing Facebook Lives of animals
- The Denver Zoo is offering virtual safaris!
- Virtual Museum Tours, Performances, and Tutorials to Keep You (and Your Kids) Entertained at Home
- Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems
- Scholastic Learn At Home
- National Wildlife Federation’s Ranger Rick
- Live Fish Cameras at the Georgia Aquarium!
Cindy shared, “Homeschooling has been an adjustment!! And their 2 year old brother is not helping the situation! So doing work at the kitchen table is not realistic (that’s where they normally do homework).
E-Learning: it’s quite a lot of work for two kids (2nd & 3rd graders). I have to figure out apps we’d usually never use, and I wish there were workbooks they could do instead of hours of online work using multiple sites. To make it easier on everyone I ordered desks for each from ikea and we’re going to give them their own work spaces. The girls are super excited about this!
Treats: we stocked up! We bought enough cookies/chips/ice cream/popcorn to have a treat every day.
We go outside weather permitting for an hour at least. Yesterday they learned how to roll down a hill!
Recess: we do recess at least 2-3 times a day:).
Talk time: I give the girls each time to talk about what is going on.
Wine: because wine not?”
Allison wrote, “We’re trying to go on walks. I also printed out some activity pages for my 4 year old. We have tracing letters, matching, connect the dots, cut and paste and paper dolls. I also have a big card box that I’m going to give them to turn into a fort.”
Brandy said, “Starting the day outside has been a real win for us. Grab a drink/muffin and head out for a walk followed by a heartier breakfast when we return. Then we keep the 4 kids on a schedule. We are lucky that the school has given assignments so there is another authority figure. We pretend we are at school. We stop for snack, recess, lunch and PE. I have been handling the schooling because my husband is working some and doesn’t have the patience. I have him do PE. I let them Skype/message a friend during the day. We are also trying to stick to their after school activities but at home. Right now it’s chess. Resources that we enjoy online are ABCya! Abcmouse is currently free, epic for books, prodigy. I have been trying to keep them away from screens as much as possible because my kids get crazy if they are on them too long.”
Linda wrote, “Each of my kids is currently reading a chapter book. We’re learning a lot at scholastic.com/learnathome. I chose an exercise video on youtube each day. We take a walk around the neighborhood each day. I allow some screentime because it allows them to connect with their friends when they can’t do so in person. We have also been playing a lot of board games.”
Katharine said, “I’m sort of envying those people who have time to tackle projects. My husband is a professor, so he’s madly trying to record content to keep teaching his students after spring break. My kids are young 6&9 so it’s hard for them to do a lot of self-directed schooling, but we have set aside times for various subjects and my husband and I switch off working with them. I’m supposedly working from home too but so far I end up working into the night to get the hours in for my firm. My boss commented on the time marks on my emails, but he understands. Our local university science program has daily “projects” for the kids (legos or drawings) and they are starting a reading time today with Magic Treehouse books. (WVScienceAdventures, if anyone is interested). We are also watching the Cincinnati Zoo at 3pm. My older son has a set “playdate” with a local friend on a Minecraft world. We have recess where we throw them outside with bikes and they know the rules if they see any of their friends while riding up and down our block. (Neighborhood mommies got together on ‘rules ‘ early into this so we’d have a united set of rules) We planted seeds in containers out back and made weather instruments to measure all the rain we’ve had recently. We have been listening to music from all over the world. (We spin the globe and pick a country to learn about and hear music from.) We take a neighborhood walk every day. Basically just trying to have fun and keep them learning and keep our jobs!!”
Working From Home
Savannah shared, “I am WFH and schooling my Kindergartener. When it’s her school time I don’t do work, which is only a few hours at most based on what the school sent home. I let her choose her music, art and gym activities. During that time is when I do work. I just had to come to terms with the fact that I am not going to get in 8 hours of work right now. I do wake up before her so I can get at least 2 hours in, and I work maybe an hour after she goes to bed.”
Danielle wrote, “I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home, and my son is just under 1 year old, so not much has changed in our daily life, except we don’t get to take him to activities! We’re trying to go on walks, cook/bake, and introduce new toys every few days to keep things interesting. I saw this resource today for STEM activities for parents of older kids: www.facebook.com/iRobotEducation/”
Juli said, “I’m working at home, which is tough with 3 kids there with me. I have a loose schedule set up for them to keep them busy and not spending the whole day watching YouTube videos. They have reading time, art time, school time, chore time. I have also made a list of some extra things around the house that could use some extra work, and I pay them a little to do those things.”
Ingunn wrote, “I’m working from home. I’m a teacher and all schools are closed, but we’re still supposed to tutor our pupils via digital platforms😅 My children (teenagers) are sitting in other rooms and are in contact with their own teachers. Husband is also working from home- luckily we have the space! I’m taking walks in nature every day, and am so grateful that I have this opportunity☀️🌲My yoga teacher is streaming sessions from her house, so I can still practice 🙏.”
Lindsay said, “To stay sane here (two adults expected to work full time and a seven year old):
1) getting up and doing the same morning routine except letting my kid sleep in because I don’t need extra hours of supporting him while I work. He has been sleeping until 8:20 most days.
2) going out for a walk every day as a family. We saw a bald eagle the other day and it was the happiest I have felt all week.
3) reading before bed and doing a meditation if I feel stressed
4) I set up a Zoom with my 8 besties from college for next Monday night. This will be good for my soul.
5) lunch as a family
6) planning with my husband for me to have some alone time for a bit when work finishes as I transition from work to home life
7) I like a challenge- so we are doing the “picture book challenge” where we attempt to read every picture book in our house while school is out and the “board game challenge” where we play all of our games at least once during this time.”
Learn Something New/Tackle Old To-Do’s
Kristi said, “I’m drinking ginger water tea and adding vitamin c to water. I wash my hands about every 30 minutes. I wash my hands as soon as I come back inside. I’ve done workouts. I joined a few groups posting daily workouts. My friend and I still meet for a run outside, but now we stay 6’ apart. I’ve been looking at new recipes. I made chicken veggie soup the other night. And Im working from home now. But in between times, I’m cleaning up, organizing, Marie Kondo-ing stuff, and hanging up pictures.”
Natasha wrote, “I think my number one suggestion would be to grab the Duolingo app. When I lived in Italy it was a lifesaver it really is the easiest way to learn a language 3 lessons 15 minutes a day. I had fallen off since I moved back but I realize that I wanted to make sure that when I go back to Italy and see my friends again someday that I could speak their language so I’ve picked it up again with a passion and I have found that it’s a good way to kill time that’s not watching TV when I’m at a low energy point.”
Natasha also recommended, “make a container garden. I’m in the middle of starting sweet potato slips I harvested seeds from long beans and Wing beans and I’m trying a bunch of different seeds that haven’t grown here before in Guam. I’m also taking this down time to capture all of our wild chickens and help to domesticate them so that they will become layers inside cages rather than inside bushes to help reduce the baby chick population. I’m also busy putting together an inventory of all of the different kinds of foods I have and researching recipes to come up with new ways to use canned vegetables.”
Julia said, “I am decluttering an area at least once a day. Starting garden seed, expanding the garden instead of cutting back. I am following here, The Prudent Homemaker as she has several posts of how to stay home. Put my library app on my kindle and calling people instead of just social media and texts.”
Rochell wrote, “Our parks are closed so we are walking around the neighborhood, racing and when it’s chilly or rainy we pop on Just Dance videos on YouTube. Lots of exercise and outdoor time as possible.
We also are shifting our focus to how we can help others, by:
– creating cards to send to the local senior center
– checking up on our neighbors
– holding weekly prayer conference calls
To entertain the kids (outside of school work and chores):
– play games outside (baseball, soccer, roller skate, ride bikes, go for a walk, clean the yard, get soil ready for garden)
– write stories to then read at bedtime
– learn how to doodle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktxIPNPU3Kg
– Lego kits
– Listen to a podcast (Brains On, WOW in the World)
– Cook/Bake together
– Scavenger hunt
– Call/Facetime friends and family
As for me, I’m preoccupying my time with reorganizing my home and decluttering. I have a lot on my to-do list that has been put to the side because of my work schedule and keeping up with my kids’ work load. It’s a terrible time but for this stillness, I’m thankful.”
Holly wrote, “We are taking bikes & scooters out. Family hikes. Neighborhood walks with the dog and kids. Cleaning out the basement. Putting together a much needed new dresser for one kid. Possibly going to finally get around to painting the room of another kid. Basically, tackling all the home improvement projects we normally don’t have time for but now…we got nothing but time!”
Mandy said, “Personally we have:
-Done the apartment spring cleaning early
-Planted extra seeds because we could
-I have called a family member or friend every day to chat and catch up. I have been calling my 96 year old grandmothers 2-3 times a week for the past two weeks (I live in Germany so we have been doing this a wee bit longer than y’all as I am closer to the Italian boarder living in Bavaria).
-I have made a list of all the things I have *wanted* to do in the flat i.e. hang pictures, organize binders, clean the cellar, paint a room (we have the paint in the cellar already), organize/label digital pictures on the computer, make a birthday/anniversary master list for the year so I don’t lose track of who I want to Email/send a card/send a gift to, taxes etc. So that when self-isolation is over we can enjoy ourselves knowing so many to-do items are already taken care of
-Made a list of 10 new-to-us movies to watch
-Made a list of 5 new recipes to try with ingredients we already have on hand
-Indoor exercise videos from YouTube and because we live in a village when its sunny we can go on a walk in the farmer fields and not see a soul.
-We contacted two families we know privately to offer help. I think if those of us who can help, do help one or two people/families the ripple effect would be enormous.”
Have A Daily Meditation/Journaling Practice
KT wrote, “I can’t take credit for this because I saw it circulating on FB, but I like to start my day with these daily quarantine questions:
1. What am I GRATEFUL for today?
2. Who am I CHECKING IN ON or CONNECTING WITH today?
3. What experiences of “normal” am I LETTING GO OF today?
4. How am I GETTING OUTSIDE today?
5. How am I MOVING MY BODY today?
6. What BEAUTY am I either creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?
I wrote them in a notebook and made the questions pretty with colored markers. The questions help me stay grateful and focused on the positive things in my world and give me a plan to do more than stare at work all day long!”
Danielle said, “As world conditions seems to change daily, we’ve started a daily video log to capture these momentous times. Depending on how things go, it may end up being edited to be humorous or serious, likely both. We’re trying to capture the crazy things like my husband and I having a Zoom conference from across the living room (testing it for another use), our daughter starting seeds (she would have done this anyway, were just pretending it’s our survival plan), my son watching the dramatic videos posted by his teachers. And of course, our pets settling into this new reality just fine.”
Leah said she is, “limiting news exposure to light news, don’t care for any more anxiety! Planning on sewing curtains, yard work. Establish the same hours I had pre-isolation, but using exercise videos and home treadmill, yoga and relaxation apps to calm myself.”
Make Virtual Connections
Brittany recommends, “FaceTime with other family members.”
Sal said, “My kids are emailing my parents daily. It’s amazing.”
Mindy said, “For exercise I’m riding my bike on zwift every morning. I’m taking this time to enjoy being home and doing some cleaning and organizing plus getting things done at home that I was going to do “someday”. I’ve also got a big puzzle started.”
Final Thoughts From Isolation
There is no guidebook for how to handle this. There is no set of social norms to fall back on. We’re in new territory and we’re all trying to figure out what we can do, what we should do, and what we need to do in order to get through this. I am grateful for the internet. I am grateful that I get to stay home–not that I have to stay home, but that I get to. I am grateful to all of the frontline responders and healthcare workers and grocery store employees and postal service employees and everyone else who leaves their home to work in service of others every single day. If the worst thing I have to combat during this pandemic is isolation, then I will be a very, very, very lucky person indeed. Take care, stay home, and stay safe.