What our days look like now.
I deleted Facebook from my phone.
I watched "The Social Dilemma" on Netflix, and just like "Food, Inc." helped me to look more closely at the food I put in my body and to choose organic wherever possible, "The Social Dilemma" got me to look more closely at how much time I spend mindlessly scrolling and, to be honest, how that content is making me feel. The answers are: too much time, and mostly frustrated. I had been feeling icky about it for a while now, but I was unable to stop reaching for my phone every spare moment, going straight to social media, zoning out and getting that easy dopamine hit from the likes, share, connections. Watching that documentary was the push I needed to just delete the app already. I can still log in from my computer on the weekdays, since social media is my day job, but at least this way it's not consuming so much of my attention.
Before we moved out to Las Vegas this past summer, a friend asked, "Will you be posting on Happy Jack Eats again to keep us updated?" I hadn't even thought of that. I kind of liked the idea, but before I could answer, he said, "You know what? Just post on Facebook." Yeah, that's way easier. Everyone will see it there. But now that I'm taking a step back from social media, I'm reminded of the days before I relied so heavily on this platform. Remember good old blogging? Sitting down to write something longer than a caption, watching the blank page fill with words, the soft taps of the keyboard feeling almost like a massage running through my fingers, vibrating through my body and mind and soul. I missed this.
So enough of all of that and let's just jump right into what our days look like now. We live in Las Vegas now, in a house with a pool and no grass, in a gated community literally on the edge of town. The neighborhood is surrounded by desert on three sides. If you find our house on a Google map, we're on a a little peninsula of houses, jutting out into the blank space. Standing in front of our house in the street and looking west, I can see mountains and sky. The other night after dinner, we walked to the end of the dead end street just outside our neighborhood, climbed over the low fence and up a small dirt hill. To the west and south - mountains and desert. To the north, more desert and just beyond, city lights.
My sister Jenny lives five miles north, my parents live five miles east. Sometimes Mom and Dad stop by to drop off pancit or stir fry or banana bread. Sometimes we go to Jenny's house for game night, which gets little Murdo excited because he and his cousin get to do "whatever we want" while the grownups play Puerto Rico for hours. It's like when I was little, and my parents would play mah-jongg with the neighbors across the street, and the neighbors' daughters and I would play Barbies or hide and seek or stay up way too late watching "Tales from the Crypt." Sometimes I can't believe we're the grownups, the parents now, checking on the kids every hour or so if we hear whining, carrying a sleeping little Murdo from the spare bed at Jenny's house to the car, then to the car to his bed at home after the 10-minute drive back at 1:00 in the morning. I'm glad he likes game nights so much. Me too.
And then there is distance learning. Little M got into a great magnet program, an International Baccaleurate school where his dad also got a job as a third grade teacher. It's a little far from our house, and we hesitated to accept the spot for little M since his zoned school has a high rating and is just a few blocks from home. But we decided to go for it, and if it didn't work out, he could always register back to the closer school. To be honest, I'm still learning what it even means to be in an IB school. Right now, I know the school has a courtyard with a garden and turtle habitat,and little M is learning about balance and how to be a risk-taker and an inquirer. His first homework assignment is due on Tuesday: make yourself with materials around the house. No other instructions or guidance - just go do it!
The actual school days are long, long, soooo looooong. We are about a month in, and there are fewer tears (from both mom and kid). We are getting into the swing of things. M is able to mute and unmute himself and even navigate his live session on his own while I put on my headphones and try to focus on work for the 30 minutes he's occupied, before he takes off his headphones and asks me, "Now what, Mommy?" Independent work time involves practicing writing, drawing, coloring, reading books. I manage his schedule, keep him moving from one activity to live session to the next, fix his lunch and prepare his worksheets and open up his Google Meets and set timers so he doesn't miss a class. He's only been halfway late to one class so far, when one of my meetings ran long and for 40 minutes I completely forgot that I'm also a part-time Kindergarten teacher. After school, he's playing video games or watching TV for way too long while I finish up work and get dinner started. It's nonstop. I feel like I'm doing everything - working full-time, being a stay-at-home mom, teaching my son, keeping a home - and doing nothing as well as I should. There has been a lot of practice in letting go of expectations, guilt, and shame, and accepting what is.
When I get tired, when I feel like curling into a ball in bed and waiting for someone else to do it all for me, I practice gratitude - for our home, our jobs, each other. That I only have one child and one school day to manage. That I am able to work from home with a flexible job that allows me to sit next to him while I work and he learns, and to help him practice sight words and counting and handwriting. Murdo in the den down the hall, teaching third graders how to write narratives. Lunches together. Endless sunshine. Walks in the evenings around the block or at the park. I go back and forth from feeling very stuck to feeling very grateful, multiple times a day. I know I am not alone with these feelings, and my heart breaks for every family navigating their own struggles in their own homes. This too shall pass, for all of us.
I think that's it for now. Oh, our 10 year anniversary is tomorrow. I haven't really had a moment to stop and think about that, because when I look back at the last decade... oh man, there is a lot to unpack. We are different people, a different couple, with a better, stronger marriage built on empathy, compassion, and trust. Trust in our love for each other, trust in ourselves, and trust in something greater. The work we've done building that trust brought us here.
I'll end this with a list of some places we've eaten at so far in Las Vegas, because Happy Jack Still Eats.
- The Oyster Bar at Sunset Station
- Mama Bird - fried chicken and BBQ
- Firefly - tapas
- Trattoria Nakamura-ya - Japanese Italian fusion
- Sparrow + Wolf
- Handel's Ice Cream
- Chip Off the Block Deli
- Fuku Burger
- Belly Bombz - Korean inspired chicken sandwiches