FAMILY & PARENTING

I Have Been Home With My Child For 63 Days, And These 11 Things Are Keeping Me From Breaking

by Stephanie Kaloi

Like so many of you, I have been at my home for a long, long time. Sixty-three days, in fact! We returned from a trip out of the country on March 12, and my child and I have not left our home for 63 wonderful, gooey, weird, long, challenging days.

Oh sure: I mean, I did go pick up curbside Shirley Temples (his favorite) twice, and I had a doctor’s appointment that couldn’t be rescheduled, so I guess I’ve left, like, a little bit. But generally, day in, day out, we are both right here, sheltering in place. And I should say that I do love my kid, and I like spending a lot of time with him, but I also struggle to believe that this particular experience is meant to be our natural state.

At the beginning of this experience, I thought that the fact that I have been working from home for over 10 years would work to my advantage.

And while I’m sure on some level it actually has, it doesn’t really feel like it. Even though I work from home and have been for what feels like forever (in a good way), I still see people throughout my day. I go to coffee shops and bars; I type, type, type at bookstores; I see other parents when I drop off my kid at classes and tutoring; I cruise the aisles of Target for no reason and without any intention of buying a thing. In other words: I live.

Or, well, I did. Now that my home has become the primary place where I do all of my living, I have taken very concrete steps to help keep myself from absolutely 100% melting down at the dawn of each new day. Here’s what’s working:

1. I made my bedroom into my favorite place.

bedroom
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

I’ve always liked my bedroom, but now I love my bedroom. Since I am spending so much more time at home, I have found that I’ve been very into making my home into a place that I aesthetically want to be in all the time. Maybe this is something that some of you have been doing your entire adult lives, and if you have, I salute you. I have kind of just been throwing a hodgepodge of thrifted furniture, curtains I kind of like, and houseplants into a jumble and being thankful that I have somewhere safe to exist each night.

I started with the bedroom because I have wanted to mix it up in there forever and make it a warm, cozy space. I swapped out the blackout curtains (which I never liked) for these instead (I chose the “linen” color), moved one of the fish in, added some plants that were previously in the living room, and bought a new duvet cover in a color I never knew I needed in my life until I saw it online. These three changes may not seem like that big of a deal, but they totally changed the vibe, and I love it.

2. I started making 'mixtape' style playlists.

playlists
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

I am a pretty big fan of music, and as I age I have definitely found that I can lean way into genres that I previously pretended I was too good for. Case in point: I have a playlist called “Y’all” that’s all country music and kicks off with “I Hold On” by Dierks Bentley. I can’t believe it!

Early on in my time at home, I found that putting together one or two mixtape-style playlists a day really did a lot of good for my mind. I have slowed down the pace, but I usually make one a week. I keep them short (12 to 15 songs, as if they were really on a cassette tape or CD), and I like to theme them. For example, every song on this particular playlist has the word “you” in the title. Sometimes I ask a friend to help me figure out songs to add, but mostly I just use this as an opportunity to listen to music I love and find new songs that I’ve never heard before.

Bonus: Now I have plenty of songs to listen to while I dance around in my kitchen, which has also become our homeschooling room, our gym, and the place where we give the dogs their flea meds — and is obviously where we cook every single meal that we eat all day, every day, when will we ever be able to order takeout again without worrying? Asking for a friend.

3. Nicole Richie's new turn as Nikki Fre$h

OK, first and foremost: I am a big Nicole Richie fan. I have loved her ever since Simple Life came out while I was in college, and I have happily followed her life via gossip magazines, the internet, and, now, Instagram. I am also a big fan of the Netflix show Grace and Frankie, and when my two fandoms — Nicole and Grace and Frankie — intersected on the show, I kind of freaked out.

Since then, I have mostly calmed down, but I am a big-time believer in Nicole’s current career quest: becoming the greatest rapper alive. And when you’re singing about organic groceries, crystals, and chickens … how could you not?

4. A live chicken cam

I feel like this is probably the best point to move right into one of my more recent obsessions/ways I am getting through this mess of a life: this live chicken cam that a coworker of mine has set up and runs all day for, I assume, our general entertainment and amusement.

Now is probably a good time to also tell you that I am an aspiring chicken owner, but have never had chickens myself. In fact, this year was supposed to be the year that chickens finally came to live in my home, but then you-know-what happened, and the farm we were going to buy them from decided to nix their sales.

So for now, I happily watch the chicken cam all day and wistfully dream of the day I will have chickens of my own.

5. Candle burning/candle magic

candle book
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

Some of you might have hit this point, and now you’re feeling a little skeptical and you’re wondering when you accidentally clicked out of my survival post and onto a magical woo-woo site, but let me tell you this: You’re still on the post! I promise! Here’s how I got into candle burning as a ritual:

One thing that has come out of this prolonged at-home experience is that I am getting into rituals in general. I have started lighting Shabbat candles each Friday evening (and even making challah!). If you have never lit Shabbat candles, they take a while to burn out, and you don’t put them out yourself. So one night I was reading nearby, waiting for the candles to do their thing, when I heard a tinkling sound and went to investigate.

My glass candlestick had broken, and I was a little spooked. I cleaned it up, and then the next morning I decided to google “glass candlestick broke” while making coffee. And y’all … the results led to one thing and then another, and then the next thing you know, I was buying this book about ritual candle burning from the 1940s. It’s been really interesting, and now I own candles in many colors, burn them on different days, and am really into the entire process.

Who knew, right?

6. Wearing crystals

6. Wearing crystals
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

OK: Here is the point where you actually did click out of the post and are on a woo site! Except! Not really.

I have been a fan of wearing crystals for their healing properties off and on for years, and my new interest in candle burning led to reading about moon rituals, which led to reading about wearing crystals intentionally. I decided to start light, and one day I spent a long while at an online shop, looking at the options and waiting for something to speak to me.

Outside of the current global situation, I am also a little restless and unsteady personally. So amethyst, which is said to balance your mood and promote a general sense of tranquility, was a good fit for me. I am still learning a lot about all of this, but I figured it can’t hurt, right?

7. Embroidery

embroidery
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

As much as I have sometimes tried to deny it, I am from the South and am pretty Southern in a lot of ways. While I have lived in many major cities and have traveled to many more, I always keep coming back here. I am telling you guys this because I have recently taken up the fine hobby of embroidery, and even though it’s irrational and untrue, I always feel like Southern people kind of own needlecrafts. (I know we don’t! I’m sorry I said it!)

I was pretty intimidated by the idea of taking up embroidery all the way up until the point that this kit arrived at my doorstep and I realized that a blue pattern was drawn onto the canvas and that I just had to follow it. Hello: I love directions!

8. Reading books, but only kind of

8. Reading books, but only kind of
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

Before this mandated time at home, I was a big-time reader. I keep track of the books I read each year (on my Instagram feed and also in my planner), and I love to read allllll kinds of stuff. I do tend to gravitate toward historical fiction, biographies, and memoirs, but every so often I’ll do something wild and pick up a book just because I like how it looks.

But since we’ve been home forever and ever, I’ve found that my enthusiasm for reading has waned. This troubles me, but I’ve decided that instead of resisting, I’ll just accept it. Where I once read multiples chapters each evening before bed, I now am lucky if I clear a few pages. I hate it! But it’s OK!

The Seep by Chana Porter was one of the last books I checked out of my library in early March, and I read it with an enthusiasm that bordered on ridiculous. Chana has a pretty singular ability to blend sci-fi with surreality with everyday things that we all go through, and the result is something that is genuinely special. I like the way her writing makes me feel: curious, small, empowered, and alive.

9. Shopping for clothes online

9. Shopping for clothes online
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

This might feel like an obvious choice, but for me, it’s not. I tend to have a pretty strict “you can buy new clothes only if you donate a bunch of old stuff first” rule for myself, and right now I can’t donate anything. So now I have a fairly strict “you can buy new clothes only if they aren’t really new and they cost less than $10.”

Ebay is my favorite place to shop, and I have a list of saved items that I am constantly cycling through, updating, and buying from. I always buy clothes that are previously owned because I believe that it does a small part to offset the environmental destruction that the fast fashion industry wreaks. Also … they’re less expensive. Win-win!

Buying new stuff right now is kind of silly because I’m just wearing it at home for myself, but it’s also oddly empowering because I’m just wearing it at home for myself.

10. Jane Fonda

jane fonda
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

I have already mentioned my Grace and Frankie fandom, but my love for Jane Fonda goes back a long, long time. I am pretty sure that the first time I realized how much I loved her was when I spent a summer watching every Robert Redford and Paul Newman movie with my friend and we watched Barefoot in the Park pretty early on.

So I was extra thrilled when Jane moved her Fire Drill Fridays to the internet because it meant I could finally attend! She and Lily Tomlin (Hi Lily, I love you) recently led a Fire Drill Friday together, and I was so happy that I was able to catch it.

11. Finally playing all the video games my kid wants me to

video games
Stephanie Kaloi/LittleThings

Like a lot of kids right now, my 11-year-old is truly living in unprecedented times: I pretty much greenlight every video game request he makes, and I even play them with him. Right now, our deal is that he can spend up to $20 on a new game each Friday (and we totally go over that if it’s a really good game), and he loves it.

I even started playing the games with him, which is his favorite. I have always been down for a game or two of Mario Kart, and we still have an original Nintendo that I like to play as well. But he recently bought Injustice 2, and after nine rounds of him absolutely crushing me as Blue Beetle, I was finally able to persevere in the 10th round while playing as Starfire. Coincidentally, she’s my favorite character on Teen Titans Go!