Grocery shopping used to be a simpler weekly chore. Since the world changed 1.5 months ago, feeding my family has become a stressful event. I used to meal plan on a weekly basis, mostly on the day prior to grocery shopping. These days I try to make our groceries last two weeks, which means that weekly meal planning has turned into monthly meal planning. I printed out blank calendar sheets I found online and filled out a month worth of meals. Instead of using my phone meal planning app for the grocery list like I did pre-COVID-19, I write the grocery items down on a piece of paper of which I can dispose. I’d rather not touch my phone at all inside the grocery store. Buying two weeks worth of food means the little piece of paper is filled with items to purchase. The day of shopping I have to gauge what time to get to my store. The store’s first hour is dedicated to seniors. I have to decide if I should get there 15 minutes prior to “regular” people being allowed in or if I should go a little later in the morning to totally bypass the last group of seniors. Either way, it is guaranteed that I will need to get in a line and wait at least 30 minutes if not longer. After I settle the kids down with my husband (and then my mom after my husband “goes” to work), I put my mask on, grab a pair of gloves, put a change of clothes in the garage, and drive to the store. I stand in line and start texting friends and family that I intend to catch up with that morning. I even listened to music last time when I waited in line. It may sound weird but I no longer listen to my own music these days. I usually listen to children’s songs or podcasts. However I didn’t want to spend my mental energy on understanding words while waiting in line. Music was so much more enjoyable. After the senior line dissipates, my line usually starts moving pretty fast. I like it that our grocery store allows only a few people in each time so I don’t mind waiting in line 6 feet away from the people in front of and behind me. The store workers constantly sanitize the carts. They also give you a squirt of hand sanitizer before you enter the store. Inside the store things are very manageable because like I said, only a few people are allowed in each time. I like to go in the morning so that I have a chance to find all the things on the list. The store used to have these extra large carts. I wish they still have them. Every time I go, I fill the cart to the brim and some things have to overflow to the bottom. Don’t underestimate how much grocery one has to buy to feed a family of five (my mom included). Most items are in stock, which I am thankful for. A couple of things are still missing, such as canned kidney beans. Lately I have been buying one bottle of wine each time because… well, sheltering in place with twin toddlers. Enough said. I also have to be mindful of the space in my fridge and freezer. The check out process is also a breeze. There is basically no line. At most you only have to wait for the cashier to finish with the person ahead of you. Last time I jokingly apologized to the cashier for my very full cart because I try to buy groceries every two weeks. She said she appreciates that… as some customers go to the store everyday. Can you imagine waiting in line to get into the store daily? I don’t see how that is necessary. Some people just have to go out on a daily basis. I can understand taking walks, but to the grocery store? Personal reusable bags are no longer allowed in the store, so everything is packed into the store’s paper bags for us. When I get home, I have a whole production to go through. I park the car in the garage, get off, and wash my hands. I remove my mask, dispose it, and wash my hands again. I then change my clothes in the garage and put the worn clothes in the washer directly. I then start to move all the grocery bags to the kitchen. That often takes several trips. I used to let the kids unpack the groceries with me. Since COVID-19, I don’t allow anyone to touch the groceries but me. Putting away the groceries takes a long time. A couple of weeks ago, I’d use disinfectant wipes to clean packages. I no longer do that. I feel safe to leave things in the fridge or in the pantry as long as I take precaution to wash the packaging when I use it or wash my hands after I open something. So that cuts down on the time it takes to put away groceries, although trying to fit everything in the fridge is a balancing act in itself. Once that is done, I shower and wash my hair. I know that it is not necessary, but I just feel cleaner after being out in public for a long time. This whole thing takes so much more time than before. I am thankful that my mom is here to help so I can go shopping without worrying about childcare. Otherwise, Bob would have to take time off or I’d have to go on the weekend when he has time off. It often makes me feel so good to see a fridge full of food. That means that my family will be fed for the next two weeks and I don’t have to worry about grocery shopping again for a little while. I never thought that a fridge full of food would give me a sense of security. This is a whole new world that we are living in.
The meltdown that I am referring to wasn’t the kids’. It was mine. I had my first meltdown since the shelter-in-place started.
We have been doing well all things considered. No one lost a job. We are healthy. The whole family gets to be together. There are many things to be thankful for. But having two toddlers at home all the time can be stressful. I believe that the kids feel cooped up and their behaviors show it. Okra has been acting out much more frequently than pre-shelter-in-place. Sometimes he throws a tantrum seemingly out of the blue and starts throwing toys or jumping up and down in frustration for no reason. There is no trigger that I could see. Or a little something can trigger him into a hot mess. He hits people, especially me, really easily when he is not happy. Bunny has also started to hit me when she is upset, which is a new behavior. Sometimes when one is acting out, the other one comes to interfere. And then there are also the usual fights between the two of them. Day in and day out, this has become too much for me. I am sometimes at a loss as to how to deal with the kids’ tantrums without losing my cool.
Well, I failed miserably yesterday. Dinner last night was pizza that I had to go pick up. The kids were watching a toy train video on YouTube with their dad. When we stopped the video to come have dinner, they were already a little bit upset. They both sat down and started complaining about the dinner. One wanted “mommy’s pizza”. The other one wanted “big pizza”. I tried my best to fulfill their wishes but the end results were them throwing the pizza or tasting the pizza and starting to wail because they didn’t like it. I tried to calmly tell them that they could choose to not eat and go play, but they just wouldn’t have it. Both of them were whining and Bunny continued wailing loudly. After this back and forth of asking for something, me offering them what they asked, and them not wanting it, I lost my cool. I started yelling at the kids which made them cry even more. It was one chaotic scene. Bunny’s crying is usually especially annoying. And she cries for a long time usually. Bob couldn’t stand the crying and told me to give them screen time. I am really against that because to me they are learning that they get to watch TV as a reward for not eating dinner. However, because I was already losing it, I doubt that I could remain calm to turn the whole thing into a teaching moment. What I needed to do was to walk away. Screen time offered me a time to walk away without the kids killing each other. However, I was so upset with the kids and my husband offering screen time to them, as well as the accumulated effect of one month of shelter-in-place, I turned into a crying mess. I went inside the kids’ room and cried and cried and cried. It was a much needed release of my emotions. After I calmed down, I know that giving them screen time last night was not going to ruin them forever. The kids get plenty of face-to-face time with us playing, reading, and drawing. We are trying our best as parents under these circumstances. I just hate myself for melting down, losing my cool, and turning into a maniac. I am thankful that this doesn’t happen often at all. But I do need to seek the Lord’s help in having patience and knowing strategies to handle the kids’ emotions. I do not want my meltdown to become a regular occurrence. Parenting is such a huge responsibility and it is at times overwhelming. I constantly feel like I am doing something wrong. The other day Bob and I had an opportunity to join a zoom parenting session with a parenting coach and got some pointers. It reminded me that God does not leave us to be parents without resources or help from Him or others. Being humble to seek guidance is a good first step.
I bought a used learning tower about eight months ago so that the kids could cook and bake with me. We had used it a couple of times for pizza making but not much else. I think the infrequent use is mainly due to my lack of confidence in controlling the mess. With one child, I might feel a bit more comfortable with preventing the little sticky hands from flinging ingredients all over the place. With two kids the same age, the chances of chaos were too great for me to make the experience worthwhile. Plus we had activities every morning even on rainy days so it made it hard for me to plan for baking with them. Now that the kids are 2 1/2 years old and we are home all day long, I have been looking for ways to kill time with the both of them. I feel that they are mature enough for me to trust them with dumping ingredients in a bowl for baking. So the other day I invited them over to climb on the learning tower to make some muffins. They were so excited! They first put silicone liners in the muffin tin. I let them take turns pouring both wet ingredients and dry ingredients in the bowl. They got to learn the names of all the things we put in the muffins. I am quite pleased with how well they followed directions. They took turns pouring each ingredient and didn’t fight over it. They also helped me mix the batter together. Mess was totally minimal. They watched me patiently as I portioned the batter in the muffin cups.
They drew and colored while waiting for the muffins to be done. At one point they were impatiently sitting in front of the oven to wait for the muffins to finish cooking.
I gave them each a freshly baked muffin for snack that morning.
They both looked so proud of themselves. Since then, Bunny has been telling me “I am a chef!” and was pretending to cook with baking powder in her toy kitchen. She even threw a tantrum the next day when I gave her a muffin for snack because she thought we were going to bake muffins instead. I hope that this has planted a seed for them for their love of cooking and baking in their lives. And now that I know they have enough self-control, we will experiment baking different things in the future.
A year and a half after we got married, we remodeled the house to add more space. We weren’t going to fix the backyard at the same time. However, because the backyard area is lower than street level, the building division in our city insisted on us finding a solution to ensure rain water did not accumulate in the back. We were forced to make a concrete slab there with a drain in the middle for rain water to be pumped out of the backyard. The concrete slab takes up the majority of the space leaving about three feet of space along the fences. Later on a landscaper planted various trees, shrubs, and plants that have thankfully been thriving. The garden window in the kitchen overlooks the backyard. Back then we had already been trying to conceive for a whole year. I often wondered if we would ever have a chance to stand in the kitchen and watch our children play in the backyard. Fast forward to 5 years later, our dream of having children came true. When the twins were babies, we never went outside to the backyard. When they became older, we started going out to library story time, walking on trails, the zoo, bible study, or indoor play gym every morning and did not need to use our backyard. In fact, the kids never stepped foot in the backyard until… two weeks ago. I finally cleaned up the backyard and washed the two hand-me-down Cozy Coupe cars that were gathering dirt and dust there for the last year. I have been very hesitant in taking the kids out on walks because I really don’t want them to contract the virus. So I had to find a way for them to get some sun and air. The kids have been loving it. They ride their Cozy Coupes, draw with sidewalk chalk, collect rocks and leaves, and doodle on dirt. I particularly love to watch them pretend play. There are no other toys in the backyard but it doesn’t stop the kids from their imagination. They pretend to buy groceries, get gas, and drive to walk. They are basically creating something from thin air. They pretend that leaves are animals and line them up on the planter. Although I have to break up their fights periodically, I am glad they have each other to play with so I can sometimes just sit in the shade and watch them. Their hands and clothes are all so dirty from playing in the backyard but like I said before, my tolerance for dirt has increased exponentially as a parent. I do not mind the dirt as long as they get cleaned up afterwards. They love going outside. Every morning they ask to go to the backyard. Although the size of the backyard is small, they not only have a place to get some fresh air but also get to be creative and exercise their brain in different ways. I feel very blessed to have this little space for them during this unusual time.