Post Pandemic Bucket List – Suburb Edition

I think about ‘next summer’ a lot. Hoping each outing isn’t a contemplated decision where I need to remember every individual I came in contact with on any given day in case they need to be alerted of possible COVID exposure. I can’t wait for a time where I don’t need to justify every in-person interaction, or forget to put on my mask at daycare drop-off and hope the person behind me doesn’t think I’m wildly irresponsible when in reality, I didn’t even realize until I was in the car. These are my own insecurities, I get it. Until then, I’ll dream of my bucket list. Each item ready to be checked off, and a step toward another NeW nOrMaL. Below are a few items from my bucket list, the suburb edition.

1. Go to Chili’s: Listen, the restaurant experience is one I thoroughly enjoy. I love a new trendy spot with a menu item that is the talk of the town, a beautiful bar and fancy drinks. I’ll pay $12 for a spicy margarita, I don’t give a shit. Restaurants are mini vacations, and I’m a goddamn tourist.

However, it is the chain restaurant that welcomes me home. It is the chain restaurant that understands I’m flat broke after my voyage into the city for a culinary experience and now I’m just looking for two entrees, one kids meal, a pint of beer and the bill to be at my table before I even ask. The chain restaurant understands the parking situation necessary for a mom who thinks she’s too cool for a van, but looks at automatic sliding doors and questions the futuristic vision of the Yukon and it’s creators. The chain restaurant runs like a well oiled machine, the food is mediocre but it is consistent, and when you have a child who rather eat plain ketchup over an award winning…anything, you choose a restaurant who pours salt on some beef, cooks it, freezes it, microwaves it, and calls it an ultimate burger for $10.99.

We’ll walk inside and it will be jam packed. I’ll think to myself, who the fuck is eating at a Chili’s? I’ll walk to the host stand, “two adults, one high chair” (no clue when babies stop using high chairs, so assuming Dylan will be in a high chair? Otherwise ‘one booster seat’). The host will say that the wait is about 15 minutes, and hand me one of those buzzers. Dan and I will walk with Dylan to the bar (can babies be in the bar area?) I’ve forgotten all rules, but I will do whatever I want until I get yelled at. We’ll shuffle our way to the bar, its packed because we live in a suburb and the options are limited. 2020 is a passing thought, and I am happy to be rubbing shoulders with strange people. We get drinks, and our buzzer rings, it is in Dylan’s mouth when it starts buzzing. We hand it over to the host stand (wiped off of course, I didn’t forget everything from the pandemic) and are seated at the table. They give Dylan a paper menu and crayon’s and she goes bananas. The waiter will come up to the table, He’ll be way too excited and recite the longest list of specials, we’ll decline and he will finally begin to take our order, he’ll say, “we’ll start with MOM” and that is a moment I’ve been waiting for. Followed by “and dad,” Dan will order chicken crispers with honey mustard, and I’ll order some sort of smokehouse combo, because I’m still unsure what kind of food Chili’s specializes in. We’ll eat, pay our bill totaling $30, and on our way out see our neighbor we barely interact with in the cul de sac but feel obligated to say hello when out at a restaurant.

2. Become friends with my neighbors (i.e. the one I saw at Chili’s) : I love seeing the inside of people’s homes and during the pandemic I feel like that’s been a huge miss for me. I guess I didn’t know my neighbors pre-pandemic, but I’ll become friends with them post pandemic, I promise. We don’t live in one of those new cookie cutter neighborhoods, but we live in one of those older cookie cutter neighborhoods, and I think that’s actually more exciting. Like how have you decorated your 90s oak kitchen? I want to see who painted their oak cabinets white with silver hardware, and compare how their original windows are holding up. I want to ask questions like “is that the original deck?” and then tell you how much mine cost because I’m still appalled and also definitely bragging because ours is composite. I can’t wait until someone tells me their plans to stain their deck one weekend, and I’ll say, “oh you don’t have composite?” Like they are absolute losers! Hah! Do any of our neighbors still have accordion closet doors, because we do, and I’m looking for new ideas. I’m here for inspiration and ease. Nothing like a quick walk down the block for some small talk and a beer out of someone else’s refrigerator. We’d be hanging out on the deck, and I’d go inside to use the restroom. No need to tell me where it is, mine’s in the same spot!

3. Join community theatre: Truly, I’ve been dying to be in a play. Something about the idea of declining an invite for “rehearsal” thrills me. “Oh I’m sorry, that’s opening night and I’m ‘woman #3!’ I can’t get past the audition though and I certainly can’t sing. Not even a note, so it definitely can’t be a musical. How often is play practice for community theatre? I can only make it once, maybe twice a week if I’m the lead and, certainly, I’d be the lead. I have a lot of caveats and not much action, but I swear to god, the second the curtain is lifted on the pandemic a star will be born! Well I sure hope so anyway, it would depend on the play. Last time I looked they were doing a play called “Tina’s purple purse” (or something not even close to that but it was about a mouse and purse). My debut onto the small stage isn’t going to be a play about a mouse, I can promise you that. I’m passionate about this bucket list item but like all my passions, not passionate enough to play a talking animal (unless animated, obviously). Anyway, I’ll invite you all to opening night, we’ll have an after party at Chili’s and you can meet my new “cast” friends. We’ll have inside jokes that happened at dress rehearsal and laugh at lines we forgot and improvised. I’ll probably take myself too seriously after my foray into community theatre, but that’s showbiz.

Each day I feel closer to my post pandemic dreams. Until then, I’ll place my orders to go, wave to my neighbors as I drive by in my car, and prepare my audition monologue. Cheers to us post pandemic, it’s gonna be wild. By wild, I definitely just mean, the same as before but with hand sanitizer and a touch of gratitude for a few months at least.

The past couple of weeks.

I haven’t been writing. Well, let me rephrase that, I haven’t been writing anything worth sharing. Life has been moving on, with its fair share of funny Dan stories. I can’t remember any of them at the moment, but I’m hopeful for 2021- I think it’s gonna be hilarious (for me, at home). In the meantime, I’ll recap my past couple of weeks. Usually I wouldn’t post my time recap in blog form, but I just read a post the other day and I think the weekend recaps are more entertaining during the pandemic. Like wtf are you doing to keep yourself entertained when you can’t go anywhere. Now that is interesting. I assure you, I have no creatives ideas or ways to fill your time, just sarcastic comments about the everyday.

I had the entire week of Christmas off. It was super jam packed of activities. I had a few shows to watch and roughly three presents to wrap. Understandably, I needed to wind down so one of the nights I had two margaritas and woke up with a gnarley hangover and an absurd amount of anxiety. I decided to TaKe iT eAsY for the subsequent days that followed, didn’t want to get too overwhelmed with all my ✨cHrIsTmAs PLAnS✨

On Christmas Day, Dylan spiked a fever of 104/105. Cool cool coool. She’s fine, right? Babies just get fevers this high because they are little, right? I actually stayed pretty calm even though she was literally ON FIRE (cue jack jack from the Incredibles making himself light on fire). The next night the same thing happened, so I brought her in. The doctor tested for strep throat which was negative and did a COVID test. I brought her home, and she had a fever again but seemed, generally, fine.

Forty-eight hours after the doctor’s appointment, I get a call from Phyllis from the MN Dept of Health (MDH) doing a COVID-19 tracing call. I guess Dylan has COVID, the fever was reducing and the symptoms were subsiding. It was a blessing in disguise to receive the results after the symptoms were generally gone. I would have been a mess, otherwise. I felt anxious, guilty, frustrated, annoyed, and scared. To be fair, at this point I still hadn’t received physical results from my clinic. Just Phyllis’s word and a COVID case number sent via email from her Rose International email address. Rose International is the third party that was hired by the MDH which I found while Googling. At first glance, I was truly confused because I watch Schitts Creek and was convinced I’ve been given fake COVID results from Moira as part of an upcoming musical comedy to be performed by the Jazzagals. Anyway, after some research and the realization Moira was not involved, I went on to answer Phyllis’s tracking questions, including: Has Dylan been prison in the last 14 days?” & “Can we mark the address listed as a COVID positive address (these are my words not hers).” I asked Phyllis if my home counted as a prison? We laughed at my obvious joke, and I assured her, Dylan hasn’t been convicted of any serious crimes. I was fairly concerned about the MHD marking my home as a ‘COVID positive’ house. Would someone be arresting us? Would I get a scarlett C+ spray painted on my garage door? The ramifications of such a marking swirled in my head but Phyllis assured me it was a virtual notation for first responders should we need an ambulance. Dylan nor I has been arrested since the call, but I’ve made myself an easy target and I somehow feel like a criminal. Probably, in part, because we single handily shut down our daycare room. I hope the parents whose children are in the same room as us feel some relief as their child isn’t being bitten by my child for the time being. Not for long though, she’s coming back at full strength and she’s hasn’t seen other humans besides her parents for too long.

My husband and I are exhausted, clawing at the same walls that have so graciously kept us and others safe. Although filled with gratitude and perspective, as I build my emotional intelligence, I’ll admit this: I have my five senses (they haven’t been stripped by COVID) but I am losing my damn mind. I am extremely self aware and understand that we are quarantined for a short time period, how others are suffering immensely and I just have to stay home. I get it. But how many days in a row can I stick pipe cleaners in a water bottle and call it an activity? I guess as many as it takes Haha. Some parts of the day we’ve been thriving. Sledding, playing outside, and having dance parties. While she was sick, she even watched ten minutes of tv with me. At one point we made edible paint out of Greek yogurt and food coloring and she didn’t paint a single stroke. She shoved every last drop into her mouth or near it.

I know I won’t remember the chaos over the past couple of weeks, the anxiety I felt, the guilt, the nights she never fucking slept, the mind numbing task of reading the same book over and over, and the endless meals she threw on the floor. I’ll only remember her signing “more” after each run down our small sledding hill, the huge hugs, and the adorable giggles. She’ll ask me, “mom, was it scary when I got COVID?” And I’ll LUCKILY be able to say… “oh, a little bit but we had so much fun.”

Subconsciously, I’ll definitely remember it all though. Every step back into my home will send shivers up my spine for some time.

Nineteen Ninety Eight

What was it like to be an adult in the late 90s? Also, what was it like to raise a child in the late 90s? That had to be nice, right? Were things *easier?* The current decade allows for many conveniences, but do they outweigh the bad? I can’t decide. Toddler moms of decades past say things like, “oh, it wasn’t so different.” Honestly, I have a hard time believing that, the information overload kills me and there are a lot of rules. Did you know you’re not supposed to give kids Orajel anymore? Haha, maybe you knew.. I didn’t. Well, until a *concerned* mom told someone else in a Facebook group.

I am not ONLY talking about being a mother in the 90s as a collective society, either. I’m also referring to me, specifically. Who would my husband, Dan, and I be without social media throughout extremely formative years, without smart phones, Google, and social media. Growing up sitting in inflatable chairs purchased from Limited Too certainly had a butterfly effect on my entire human existence. Who would I be without that experience? What would my job be? Would I have had a child at 25 because Instagram wasn’t around to convince me I should be traveling? What kind of mom would I be without Pinterest. How the hell would I know the latest superfoods? How would I be marketed to if there wasn’t an algorithm. Would I even know the term, algorithm?

Although the alternate reality where I am an adult in 1998 will never be known, let me paint an evening for you, because that’s what I like to do in my spare time. I think of fiction scenarios based on real life events, and if there’s an argument, I always win.

Dan and I are 30, Dylan is 1 but the year is 1998. To preface this, I was actually 8 in 1998 and my only memories include watching Toy Story, going to basketball practice, and slicking back my ponytail tight. I loved Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and so badly wanted braces. I have no clue if all my references are right, but if you feel like fact checking- please, go right ahead, Karen.

Dan sits down on the couch grabbing the remote control. He points it towards our entertainment system and clicks ‘power on,’ a laugh track fills the room, as Ray Ramono’s voice is heard throughout the main level and into the kitchen. “Can you turn that down?” I yell to Dan sitting on the couch. I prepare dinner while Dylan is on the kitchen floor next to me. She’s drinking kool-aid out of a bottle, and playing with an old Beanie Baby.

I have my hands in a bowl of ground beef trying to mix in random ingredients while simultaneously reading the notecard my mom hand wrote her meatloaf recipe on, in between step 1 and step 2, I ask Dan, “hey, this weekend, we should send Dylan to your parents so we can start to paint that main wall three shades darker. I’d love a feature wall in here and think it will give the room a Tuscan feel.” He continues to nod along, but isn’t actually listening.

Once dinner is prepared we sit down at the table, the news is now on providing a low buzz of background noise. “Mark McGwire hits his 70th home run of the season,” reports the man on NBC who is wearing a ridiculously large suit. The home run race of the MLB season keeps us excited while the Clinton scandal keeps us on our toes. We continue to eat dinner, discussing Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Bill, and Monica. Halfway into dinner, the phone rings, I get up to answer, “Hello?” “Good evening Ma’am, this is Blockbuster video, your rental, ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is two days overdue, Thank you.” I hang up the phone, and turn to the dinner table with a furrowed brow and a sharp tongue.

Dan, I TOLD you “Saving Private Ryan” is a new release, so its a two day rental. Where is it?” Dan looks up from his meal, confused and calm.”I don’t know, probably in the VCR?” “Can you drop it off at Blockbuster after dinner?” I angrily ask.

As I am clearing out plates from the table, Dan is in the family room. I see him walk up to the VCR, bend over so he’s eye level with the shelf it sits on, flip the VCR flap up revealing the film in the player. He closes it, and starts shuffling the other videos sitting nearby. I lift Dylan out of her highchair and place her on the floor, she runs to her Fisher Price red barn and grabs a plastic cow, she bangs it on the side of the coffee table as Dan steps around her looking for the VHS. He can’t find it. “Is it downstairs?” I ask. He bends down to look under the coffee table and says “No… I didn’t bring it downstairs.” Adding the late fees in my head, I remind Dan sarcastically, “you could easily buy an iMac with the late fees you’ve paid Blockbuster!” He scoffed while trying to outwit me, “I’ll never need an Apple product…”

As the evening progresses we drop the subject, I put Dylan to bed, and retire to my bedroom. I turn on my Panasonic and ‘Saving Private Ryan’ starts playing. I close my eyes and sigh, remembering two evenings before when I fell asleep before barely getting into the movie. I removed it from the VCR downstairs after Dan had watched it. I get out of bed, and grab the video, embarrassed, and continue down the stairs to the kitchen looking for Dan to apologize. Once I arrive on the main level, he isn’t there. He must be in the basement. Although this is a lesson in humility, it doesn’t have to be. I walk over to the family room, and bend down. I open the plastic roof of Dylan’s Fisher Price red barn, and place the VHS to “find” in the morning while we play. As I return upstairs, lay back down in my bed, I turn on my tv and laugh at my sneaky solution.

The next morning, I walk downstairs. Dan and Dylan are playing in the family room. Dylan is picking up her toy animals and placing them in front of the toy barn, Dan peaks in the red barn and pulls out Saving Private Ryan with an annoyed look on his face. Internally, I realize I am wrong, but when harmless plans are executed, I am not one to ruin them with small details. He turns to me and says, “Kara, I found the movie.. apparently Dylan hid it.” I respond casually, never admitting my mistake, “thanks, will you return it today?” He answers, “Yea- I’ll leave in a bit.” After a small pause he adds, “Hey! Imagine if you could always pull movies out of a magic Redbox..”

Raising Dads – Part 3: a Random Weekday Evening.

This is an excerpt of a random weekday evening. Its a peak into the mundane arguments we have, and the ordinary process of our nights. I wrote this the night it happened and just read it back to my husband, Dan. We were both laughing as we remembered the events and he is still standing by his initial opinion outlined below.

Dinner is over. I look at my daughter, Dylan, she’s sitting in her high chair moving her hand from left to right as fast as she can making a windshield wiping motion. She’s done eating and if I want to avoid all her leftovers from hitting the floor, I have to act fast. I somehow consistently remain unprepared for this constant occurrence. I stand up, walk over to grab the washcloth on the kitchen island ten feet from our meal and run back to wipe Dylan’s hands and face, abruptly, stopping her after dinner ritual. I take her out of the high chair and am holding her.

Dan asks, “when you were going to get the rag, why didn’t you bring your plate to the sink? It was on the way.”

I stand with my eyes wide open and pause for a moment comprehending what he asked and wondering if I heard him right? I set Dylan down on the ground, and she takes off. After careful thought and consideration, I react. Dylan is at the fridge trying to shove her Melissa and Doug brand wood magnets into her mouth, and I ask him, “oh I’m sorry, does my process not make sense to you? What? Is it out of order?” He responds, “you never grab your plate, so I always have to.”

Dan is task driven, efficient, an executor, and is a modern day Danny Tanner. The ship he runs is a Special Operations Craft with rules in place and a specific task to complete. If you step out of line you threaten the task at hand and the safety of the ship. The ship I run is one of those booze cruise pirate ship excursions in Mexico. It’s laid back, easy going, but still adheres to a schedule. We are headed in a general direction, I am responsible for the people on board, but there are drinks served. There are pros and cons to each. Dan will accomplish a mission efficiently, correctly, and relax later. I will accomplish a mission in the time allotted, missing a detail, but we will have fun doing it.

The night continues and we discuss priorities. I explain my priority is always our child and while I appreciate a clean kitchen the timeline of when it gets done can be flexible. He acknowledged my thought and ensured me that he agreed. We left that night with the following understanding: Clean baby followed by clean kitchen.

Fast forward two nights.

Dinner is over, and Dylan’s nighttime routine commences. Dan is done eating and stands up from his chair to grab her. She holds up both hands showing us her palms and then the back of her hand, signing “all done”. She starts screeching while windshield wiping her high chair tray. Tonight there is a rag already at the table, a proactive task in which Dan has completed and I am mildly impressed. Dan lifts Dylan out of her chair, and puts her on the ground, while he asks, “Can you come get her?” She looks up at me with avocado covered hands and food stuck to her pants. He takes the rag and starts to wipe up her high chair, I’m grinning and say, “Are you serious?” Dylan is standing near his leg trying to eat the pieces of food she previously threw on the floor. The high chair tray is spotless and he’s completed the first task on the checklist in HIS head but overlooking the tiny green avocado monster who stands at our feet. He starts laughing as self awareness washes over him, he bends down and wipes Dylan’s hands and face. He stands up, and I ask, “No, why didn’t you bring your plate to the sink?”