Newest post: Bracing for spring break (oh, yeah, and COVID-19)

March 13, 2020

By Ekta R. Garg

Today the state of Illinois announced that all schools, public and private, will remain closed until March 30 due to COVID-19. I wonder, when that decision was being made, whether the people involved realized today was Friday the 13th. I hope it made someone chuckle at least.

All right, so full disclosure here: I actually like it when my kids have time off. Within reason, that is. Summer vacation starts off great, but by the second week of August it starts to feel a little long.

As of right now, Thirteen and Eleven are just happy to start spring break. So far everything’s rolling along in our normal routine. Many of their extracurricular activities for next week are cancelled, but that’s also normal. With a major university here in town, all of the schools and many of the organizations offering activities for kids follow the university’s schedule. If they’re on spring break, everyone’s on spring break.

It’s the “after spring break” part of all this that has me wondering.

The girls’ school announced earlier this week that when the break ends, the school will move to online education for at least two weeks. Even though their teachers will handle everything—the teaching, homework, grading, everything—this feels a little like a homeschool model. Which I know works wonders for some kids and families.

I, however, would probably be terrible at it. The teaching part, that is. It would be too easy to want to skimp on the math and science stuff and dedicate whole weeks to reading and writing. Being literate and knowing how to communicate in the written form is crucial, isn’t it? Do we really need to learn algebra or to look at slides under a microscope?

(Don’t tell the math and science people I said this, by the way.)

Many of my good friends homeschool their children, and I prostrate myself in front of their courage. Their sheer determination to give their kids an education, as it’s formally defined. I know they probably have their challenges, but they’re doing it every single day.

I believe in education, of course. My parents have always said it’s the one treasure you can cash anywhere in the world with a limitless supply. But to teach? Myself? Little kids? Who ask all sorts of questions and seem to want to focus on everything except the one thing you want them to know at the moment?

Would it be terrible if I admitted that sometimes my most favorite time of day is when I’m at home all alone? If I homeschooled my children, not only would I be responsible for imparting knowledge to them but then when school ended they’d just stay. They’d never leave.

Really, to my friends who do it: you guys should be the ones running the world.

I have to say, knowing the kids will be home for a minimum of three weeks actually isn’t so daunting now. Had they been younger, I would have probably gone outside, rain or shine, every single day for about 10 minutes just so I could remember what quiet sounded like. Even as the littles would be knocking on the door from the inside asking what I was doing out there.

Now, though, they’re older and can entertain themselves and one another. (See, parents of littles, this does actually happen. It’s not a myth.) As the girls have gotten older, it’s become more common to find both of them in the same bedroom. Eleven will wander over to her big sister’s room, especially on sunny days because Thirteen gets the late-afternoon sun on her side, and they’ll sit together and read or listen to music. Often they’ll even do chores like fold laundry together. It’s nice to see.

On the other hand, I already know I’ll probably have to ref more than one fight. Experience from summer vacation has taught me this. Experience has also taught me that when I tell the girls to go to their neutral corners, they usually come back after several minutes and shake hands in a truce (well, in the metaphorical sense. And now, with all this COVID-19 stuff going on, do I really want them shaking hands? Hmm, must remember to ping Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Twitter about that one. :D)

I saw a funny meme on Facebook earlier today (if you want to see it for yourself, you can check out my Facebook author page where I shared it. For those of you not on Facebook—Mom and Dad—just enjoy the following description.)

The title of the meme is “Parenting over COVID-19 spring break,” and it’s a split screen. On the left is a picture of Julie Andrews in Mary Poppins when she’s in the nursery singing “A Spoonful of Sugar.” She’s holding a robin on her finger and has a huge smile. Above her it says, “Day One.” On the right is a picture of Carol Burnett in Annie as Miss Hannigan in her nightie holding two liquor bottles looking like an absolute wreck. Above her it says, “Day Fifty.”

You laugh, but I wonder how many of us will feel like that in a few weeks.

Today, though, everything’s normal. Everything’s going by our regular routine. We’ve officially started spring break, and the kids are looking forward to a week of watching their favorite movies, hanging out in their sweat pants, and doing normal things like getting their hair trimmed and meeting friends.

And even during this national crisis, we can still be normal. Think about it, if we all stay prepared, don’t panic, and remember to extend kindness to everyone (even if that just means a smile and a kind word, because, really, we can still do that even if we can’t hug one another,) we’ll get through this. Another great meme on Facebook said that this crisis was temporary, but we’d always remember how people treated us. Just take that into consideration.

Even if it means sitting outside in the rain every day for 10 minutes (and don’t forget to do some deep breathing; that helps too.)



Latest Spurts: Mints and protesting spring break

March 23, 2018

By Ekta R. Garg

(Enjoy these special spring break Spurts, readers!)

We’ve been on spring break this week (hence the posting a day late, :>) and unlike years past I didn’t sign the girls up for any camps. During the last several weekends, the kids found themselves swamped by homework assignments. Last month when I voiced the possibility of a camp during spring break, my husband vetoed the idea.

“Just let the kids take it easy,” he said.

I had no problem with that recommendation. While camps can be fun, informative experiences, they also tend to cut our days into pieces of set time with a set routine. It’s not often the kids get to sleep in a little if they want without (my) fear of them being late to something. So unstructured time it was!

Of course, not everyone was looking forward to the week off. On Thursday of last week, before vacation started, I went to tuck Nine in and she said she doesn’t like spring break. She wanted to stay in school.

“Well, it’s good to take a break,” I said, straightening her blanket in the semi-darkness. “Everyone’s brains need some time off.”

“What are Di-Di and I going to do during spring break?” Nine asked in a plaintive voice.

“How about if we brainstorm some ideas tomorrow after school?” I suggested. “You guys don’t have any activities, so that’ll give us some time.”

“It would be nice if we could take a trip,” she said.

“Daddy’s working, so we can’t go anywhere, but I promise we’ll do something fun, okay?”

“Okay,” she grumbled.

The next morning, she came down for school and looked at me over her cereal.

“Okay, let’s start brainstorming!”

For a minute I had no idea what she meant. When she explained, I worked hard at not rolling my eyes.

“Why don’t you just finish your breakfast for now, and we’ll worry about brainstorming later,” I said.

This time I could see the grumbling in her eyes, even if she didn’t voice it.

Do I have the only child in America who didn’t want to be on spring break?


Because both girls started reading at such a young age and at such an accelerated pace, their vocabulary allows them to play with words in our conversations. As they get older, their puns get smarter and wittier. They’ve even stumped me on a few occasions.

Earlier this week, over a leisurely lunch, we talked about various cooking techniques. I described chopping, ascribing what I know about chopping vegetables fast to Rachael Ray (one of my all-time favorite TV personalities. The girls know this, by the way.) At one point, Nine cocked her head with a question in her eyes.

“Mamma, what’s a ‘mince’?”

I started to explain that mincing has more to do with the way the cut food appears, the size and shape of the vegetable, but then Eleven interrupted me.

“Um, no, it’s those red and white stripey things?”

I looked at her, confused.

“You know,” she added with a grin and a dramatic pause, “mints?”

I groaned, dropped my face in my hands, and shook my head, then grinned back.

Like I said, the puns come fast and furious in our house.


When we have more free time during the day and week, I like to cook special dishes that sometimes require more energy and minutes than what I have to give during our regular routine. Earlier this week I stood at the stove stirring and keeping an eye on the various heated pots. I needed to refill my handy container of spices that I keep in the kitchen, so I sent the girls to the basement to grab the large zippered plastic bag of turmeric from the fridge there. Eleven and Nine bounded down stairs, and just as they came back up I turned and saw Nine miss a step and fall and hit her knee on the next step up.

What happened next made me think of when the two were babies.

Nine looked directly at me, and for about three seconds she watched my reaction. I could see the lightning fast debate she had with herself before bursting into (somewhat) fake tears. I put the serving spoon down and came to her.

First I took the bag of turmeric from her and dropped it on the island. Eleven slipped past us in a surreptitious manner and disappeared. I knelt beside Nine and asked her if she was okay.

The tears were sort of real, I do have to give her that, but the sound of her wails grew larger than the nonexistent bump on her knee. I told her to calm down and to stop fake crying. Then I led her to the sofa where I sat her down and gave her a hug. She didn’t take too kindly to me telling her that her tears weren’t all that authentic, but I know this girl. I know when the tears and the pain are real and what that sounds like.

And then there was that pause before she started to cry, of course.

I figured she might be too old for that kind of thing, but I guess not. A few minutes later, Nine’s dad came downstairs and took over the TLC session. He offered her all the cushy sympathy she wanted. I just rolled my eyes at him (where she couldn’t see) and went back to the stove. When they changed positions on the sofa so she was more comfortable, I stuck my tongue out in her direction and I could see my husband fighting a laugh pretty hard.

Guess none of us are above a little immaturity now and then.