Palm Sunday at Home + Life in the Quaran-time

Probably you think I’m going to share some profound and well thought out explanation of how we’re hallowing the sabbath here as a peaceful family of 8, but in reality it’s 9 am, 3 out of 6 kids are outside riding bikes, and not everyone is wearing underwear.

It’s just that kind of day week month.

We’re planning on reading the Mass readings for today aloud, maybe hacking down some pine branches from the giant blue spruce tree in our backyard, and later we’ll be blessed beyond all measure with the opportunity to receive the Eucharist as a family, practicing social distancing all the while and under the most unusual of circumstances.

I had too much cheap wine last night during our now weekly ritual we’ve dubbed “social distance happy hour” where we sit at the end of our driveway, our next door neighbors sit in theirs, and our across the street friends drag camping chairs into the road and we all sip our respective adult beverages and discuss the current state of affairs while 8 kids try in vain to stay 6 feet apart from non-siblings. Last night as a new addition to the ritual a few of the adults were trying out newly-acquired masks while we discussed the availability of produce at this grocery store or that, and where we might find more toilet paper. Bizarre beyond all imagining but here we are.

One set of neighbors are more vulnerable with underlying medical conditions, so we’ve done our best between the two other families to undertake their grocery runs and protect them from having to go into public spaces. We’ve forged a welcome new rapport as dwellers of planet earth and the same suburban street, and while the circumstances are beyond disturbing and nothing I’d have wished for, the neighborhood camaraderie feels nothing short of miraculous.

Zelie is trying desperately to potty train herself with Evie’s coaching and occasional assistance. Sometimes she succeeds, other times we have a lot of extra laundry when she takes it upon herself to “practice” in the early morning hours from the confines of her crib. Thanking God daily for her slightness of stature and continued inability to scale its bars.

As things stretch into what looks to be months rather than weeks of this new “normal,” I’m evaluating and taking stock of bad habits. The carrots of booze and sugar I’ve been dangling nightly to coax myself over the finish line of another day of “homeschool” and this continued locked down existence are not a tenable long term plan.

My practice of intuitive eating, while it has been a source of great healing and freedom over the past 12 months, has not proven to be exactly, well, intuitive in this time of intense stress and confusion. Intuitively I want to each fistfuls of M&Ms, preferably while curled up in the fetal position and accompanied by a nice IPA. And I’m not too proud to admit I have done so, multiple times. Having chosen neither sweets nor alcohol for my Lenten fast, I’ve perhaps relied a tad overmuch on tasty temporal luxuries to bolster me these past few very weird weeks.

Exercise has become a newly routinized part of daily life, much like the year we spent in Rome. Suddenly it isn’t unusual to be leaving the house by car fewer than twice a week, and always alone. Most days? We walk and walk and walk, circling the block, winding through the quiet neighborhood in search of teddy bears in windows and a change of scenery to break up the comfortable tedium of a life lived almost entirely at home.

Yesterday Dave took the 4 older kids to our parish and let them run loose on the soccer and baseball fields and splash in the accompanying creek. You would have thought they hit up Disneyland based on the stories they returned with, tumbling breathlessly into the house with descriptions of a hollow tree stump and a tiny fish and how the 4 year old slipped and fell into – yes into, mommy! – the shallow and still freezing creek.

The kids have been writing a few paragraphs in what I’ve affectionately and inappropriately dubbed their “Plague Journals” each morning and their childlike observations of this season are both striking and heartening. Suddenly my neurotic worries about parenting right and making good choices are being boiled down to what is essential: did I yell too much today? Do we have milk? Are they being kind to their siblings and saying their prayers?

I engage in maternal espionage and sneak peeks at their reflections, redolent with innocent recounting of a recent snow day, a new bike, the joy of having mom and dad both home all day (but also this is kind of wierd and the adoults have happy hors with the nehbors and do soshul spaces and they are funny) <–direct quote

Looking back on this time, I hope my kids remember more good than bad, more pluses than minuses. I hope they forget the hours of tv and the, ahem, occasional screaming and look back with fondness on the now daily family rosary and getting to play together as siblings for hours and hours every day of the week.

I sincerely hope they don’t recall overheard conversations between their parents about food scarcity, safety, a looming sense of economic dread, worries over making the mortgage payment in the coming months, or about whether the economy can recovery from what feels even more lethal than this virus.

For myself, I’m spending all of Holy Week offline, doubling down on my Lenten fast from IG and Facebook and adding in local and national and global news coverage. I’ve been reading some interesting and intense stuff lately here and here, and also re-reading for the umpteenth time one of my forever favorite novels, Fr. Elijah, so between those sources I have hardly any need for the distressing distraction of headlines of doom.

What about you, friends? How are you weathering this time? Are you an information junkie like me or an events ostrich, keeping your head happily down and leaving the speculation to the experts?

Within you a blessed and surely memorable Holy Week 2020, and continued health of body, mind, and spirit.

Jesus, we trust in you.


  • Annette

    Praying for my daughter and her friend who are nurses. 200 places for my ADD mind–freelance writing–do I dare? And narrow it down. Son is homeschooling/awesome teacher and I don’t have to teach him. Woot! Hub is home/traveled once so far. Dabbling in tech. Will I get paid eventually?

    Cats are over the top happy.

    Loved your update–stay well.

    • Natalie Luera

      Don’t give up on intuitive eating Jenny! It’s that darn diet culture sucking you in again. Read Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison. No one said it would be easy!

  • Callie

    My husband is a resident physician working at the hospital every day, so i’m tending toward sticking my head in the sand. COVID-19 will likely come to our house whether or not I read about it (though we of course take precautions and are constantly praying for protection). We’ve been trying to use our extra time for creative projects and I’ve even made croissants from scratch. I realized that i’ve been spending WAY too much time on my phone, so i’m going to try to put it in the other room during Holy Week (inspired by your phone detox posts from a couple years ago).

    I’ve always wondered how I would do with intuitive eating, because my intuition always seems to be telling me that I need a bowl of moose tracks ice cream nightly—at least while pregnant. 🙂

    Thank you for writing! It’s a beacon of light in these trying times!

  • Marianne

    God Bless You, Sweet Lady. I’d love to have a glass of wine with you along with fistfuls of M&Ms. Sadly for me, guess what I gave up this year?! For all else I will miss on Easter Sunday, the bubbles and chocolate will taste extra sweet this year.
    Love and hugs, wish I actually knew you cuz I just know we’d totally bond.

  • Karen

    Jenny! You brighten my day and make me feel human. You remind me what really matters and inspire me to pray the rosary daily with my family of six. We currently do it weekly, but we can for sure pray daily. Please keep writing bc you make me laugh and I need this! Love, Karen from Ohio

  • jeanette

    I gave up coffee for Lent, and you would think that on Easter morning I would have enjoyed it, but it just didn’t taste good, and that was a real bummer. I did have an Easter egg hunt over the telephone with my 3 year old granddaughter. I hid a dozen candy-filled eggs, took photos of where they were, and emailed them to my daughter. Then I gave my husband an empty Easter basket and called my granddaughter and told her to tell Grandpa where to find the eggs. She enjoyed it immensely, and Grandpa got to eat the candy, so everyone was happy.

    I watched all of the livestreams for Holy Week, and my husband, who isn’t Catholic, watched TV. He usually goes to Sunday mass, but livestream is something altogether different, and he has no interest in it. I wonder how many Catholics will be feeling the same way and will not show back up to mass when this is all over.

    Finding toilet paper and any number of other hard to find items is a victory hard won. The other day, we went to the Rite-Aid just at the time it opened, walked all the way to the back of the store (why do they put it in the back?) to see empty shelves for all paper products. The store manager popped out and asked, “Can I help you find anything?” We asked if there was any toilet paper, and he said he might have some in the back (and I’m thinking they just keep it in the back to control inventory…). He pops out with a 48 roll pack. Amazed and grateful, we thanked him.

    Now the mask orders are vexing me. I have a chronic eye condition that just makes the whole idea of a mask problematic. Then there is also my oversensitive skin. I’m pretty much going to stay home mask-free. We also don’t have masks or suitable mask fabric, so I bought some kitchen towels at Rite Aid while we were there, but have yet to fashion a mask for my husband. Our public health officer is making statements that this will go on until July or August…she says we haven’t peaked yet, though we have the lowest stats in the entire area. Power tripping is worse than masks.

    At our age, we are seeing our life slip away. We had the fires, the power outages, and now the virus. We still have not found a home to buy (we are at this even longer than you were…4 years now, and we even changed locations for our search a few months ago), but can’t do anything to search for a home with this virus situation.

    So, sitting tight, hoping not to get sick, hoping the country and world come out of this as much intact as possible. Hoping Catholics don’t become lukewarm or bail out or give up.

    Christ is Risen. He is truly Risen. That’s all we need to know really. The rest is just the stuff for helping us to become holy and maybe even become saints. Think of how many saints there are who lived and died in times like these. And I’ll bet toilet paper was the least of their worries.

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