Saturday, July 25, 2020

Weekend Reading: Another Mixed Bag Edition

This was a challenging week for me, and the ways in which it was challenging do not bode well for the school year.

Petunia had two camps, both of which she really liked. They each had about one hour of online meeting time and some things to do on her own. One camp was Small Pet Photography, and the online time was spent building props for taking pictures with small pets. She mostly did that camp on her own, although she needed my help building a lightbox during the camp time on Thursday and making some tiny hamster-safe "pancakes" Wednesday night. We took the pictures on Thursday evening, when Daisy was awake. I shared a bunch of the pictures on Twitter. Here's another one:

Between the camp assisting and being really tired because Petunia's been having nightmares (and who can blame her, really?) I did not have a very productive work day on Thursday. I made up for it yesterday, but only by getting back online after dinner to do some more work.

The other camp was a camp about marine biology. There were some hands-on activities during the online sessions, including one where they made seashells and fossils out of salt clay. There were class discussions, too, which she enjoyed. But for this camp, she asked if someone could sit at the table with her during the online session. She says it is easier for her to concentrate on the online class if she has a grown up at the table with her. I think she's right, and so we try to accommodate this as much as we can. Luckily, this camp's online session was from noon until 1 p.m., so mostly I listened in while I ate lunch and then got my laptop and worked with the sound of five kids discussing marine biology with their teacher in the background. I also routinely work at the table while she does her online art class.

This will probably need to be part of our solution for how to make online schooling work for her, but it presents ergonomic and scheduling problems. Namely, I can't do more than about an hour on the laptop at a time. I have an old repetitive strain injury and need my ergonomic set up at my desk. And my husband and I are both in a lot of meetings during the day. This is just the nature of our jobs: I am a project manager and he is a software team lead, and so we both have jobs that involve a lot of coordinating and communicating. We're thinking about how best to get Petunia the company she needs while still doing our jobs. I think it is going to require a lot of coordinating and communicating. This was the week that really made it clear that it was going to be really important that we figure this out.

And then, on Friday, I received a work announcement of a change in expectations about our timecards. I don't want to go into details, because I don't think it is necessarily a bad policy per se, but the timing is a bit tone deaf. It is a change that would be fine and even good in normal times and is going to be difficult to make while also having to work with my kids at home. I read the email and thought "there is no way I'm going to be able to do that consistently once school starts." I have one suggestion that will make it a little better, which I will make next week. And then I will do my best and see what happens. There are a couple other companies that have reached out and tried to recruit me recently, and a couple more I think might be interested if I contacted them... and our family finances are in really good shape right now for reasons I am also not going to go into. So I'll be fine, no matter what ends up happening with this new policy.

But I am frustrated and tired and could use a break from having to figure things out. Looking ahead, I don't see this improving until we get a new federal government and so I had better figure out how to be OK with being frustrated, tired, and in need of a break because that's not going to change.

So anyway, I am in need of some unwinding this weekend. We'll see if I get it.

We're also looking to make some more donations this weekend (see comment above about our finances being in good shape) but given my current status of "tired of figuring things out" I am not sure where we should send our money. We've already sent to our food bank and our local relief fund multiple times. Anyone have good ideas about where to send our money next? I'm thinking maybe Modest Needs, but if you have ideas put them in the comments.

And now, for some links. Given my hamster photo shoot assistant duties and other activities during the week, I don't have that many for you. Here's what I have:

Joel Anderson's piece on the hypocrisy of people calling John Lewis a hero while also working against voting rights is really good.

I always read Rebecca Traister. Her piece on the reporting on the speech Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez gave this week in response to Ted Yoho's insult and not-really-an-apology is excellent.

I found this article, "American Exceptionalism Was Our Pre-existing Condition" to be really well done.  I continue to think about the choices Americans have about what we do next, what we learn from this crisis and our response to it, and how we take that forward into changes we could make to our society. I think a lot is riding on what Americans do next and I have no idea what that will be. The world could really benefit if we choose to use this crisis point to change our approach to climate change, for instance. If we do that, we could truly make a better world, but I want us all to remember we could have made that change without so many lost and altered lives. Our failed pandemic response will never be anything except a tragedy, even if it is what finally causes us to find a way to stand up to the forces of disinformation and find out way through to building a more sustainable society.

This is a good piece on some of the challenges of being a parent right now.

Emily Stewart's piece about the utter failure of our economic response to the pandemic is depressing, but worth your time.

There was a lot of focus on the new CDC guidance about opening schools, and some reports that it was modified by the White House (not good!) but the CDC also put out a more detailed and informative document about school reopening. I think there are still some really good scientists at the CDC doing everything they can to get useful information out. The undermining of the CDC but the political clowns we have in charge is one of the tragedies of this time, because it is going to play out in so many ways as we face future issues.

Jessica Calarco turned her good thread about the "school pods" that some parents are forming into an article, and it is also good. But the most important piece is that class sizes need to be small, whether we are doing online school or trying to get back to in person school. That requires federal funding and honestly I doubt we're going to get it. Don't get me wrong, I will contact my representatives and push for it, but the Republicans in the Senate couldn't even agree on their own plan for extending the extra unemployment insurance and the White House is pushing to making school funding contingent on reopening for on campus classes, so I am not hopeful that we're going to get the funding required to allow for small online class sizes, at least until January.

This is a good thread about why we need to start hedging our bets on our pandemic response:
And this is another good short thread about that:

Here's your weekly bunny:

Have a good weekend, everyone!


  1. I have to say that Esquire article made my blood boil. Why are people catastrophizing things like missing a birthday party? The kids are NOT losing a year. They are not in a coma. They are not dead. They are with their parents, safe and fed. Spend time with your kids, kick the ball with them, go for a walk, read, do crafts with them. What did people do before the internet FFS? The kids are fine, would be great even if parents weren't constantly going apeshit over social-media doomscrolling. I am all out of patience when it comes to the whining of the bored affluent, thinking that missing a birthday party or not being to plan the next vacation is the end of the world. More people need to learn to look inside themselves for a second rather than expect to constantly be entertained by people, food, and experiences external to themselves.

    1. I think that for little kids, missing a birthday party IS a big deal. And not being able to see their friends is really hard on little kids. Kids need friends, not just family. Older kids do OK with Zoom calls and texts, but little kids miss playing with their friends and as a parent it is hard to see your kid sad over something you cannot fix. You know it isn't as bad as some other folks have it, but it is still stressful and sad. I think people need space to talk about that.

    2. I understand things are hard and far from ideal, and I definitely understand the need to talk about it, but it's the cataclysmic language in this piece (and other similar ones, like that one with "anticipatory grief" from March or early April) that drives me up the wall. Objectively, most of these are disappointments rather than catastrophes, yet the language used in the Esquire piece and the likes of it is one of extreme overreaction that stems from a lifetime of affluence, comfort, and entitlement.

  2. I didn't like that esquire article either... I don't lie to my kids. I just don't. Not about Santa, not about the pandemic. I didn't like the way it presumed to speak for me instead of him just speaking for himself. It also seemed to catastrophize instead of thinking about solutions.

    Kids can be resilient, especially if those of us with all this privilege are creative about it (especially with all the money we're saving on daycamps...). And I am much more worried about the low income kids whose families are being directly affected by the pandemic through death and jobloss. And those of all incomes who are seeing increased domestic violence (saw 8 very depressing papers on that topic last week).

    Yes, my kids will be losing out on some things by not being in school (I will be losing more, I think) but they're also gaining so much that they wouldn't have been. We don't have to focus on the loss, especially not with kids. The things they're losing had opportunity costs and they're currently experiencing the next best viable option instead. It's a loss, but not as big as that article made it seem.

    My own kid's virtual minecraft birthday party went great yesterday, btw. She and her friends quivered in anticipation for at least a week before just like a real birthday party. And they had several one-on-one practice runs and some zoom strategy discussions beforehand. Two of her best friends have also decided to start the year virtual (the third isn't sure yet, but will not be doing after-school) so we're talking about having a regular minecraft playdate each week.

    DC1 did Tannen's Magic Camp virtually and they were able to have so many more big stars than if they'd done it in person. Teller was my favorite. Yes, he would have preferred going to in-person camp, but there's tradeoffs.

    I have noticed that as this goes on longer, the kids are getting better able to entertain themselves. It's starting to remind me of my childhood back in the 80s and 90s. There's something to be said for learning those abilities.

    It's not like we haven't written blog posts about what we're missing and how that provides some sads. (Last night I dreamed I was in a warehouse store buying Halloween candy; not having Halloween will be sad. We will cope and deal.) But I agree with xyk that genre of articles always makes me think that those authors never knew or listened to anybody with real problems growing up. As my mom would say, "[anything causing small amounts of disappointment or minor suffering] builds character".


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