Happy New Year, friends. How are you? It’s a heavy time with COVID cases surging here in the U.S. My family is coming off of our own isolation, more on that below.
Being trapped in the house for 10 days gave me plenty of time to think about resolutions. I tend to fall for the new-year-new-you mindset, as problematic as I know it is. Nothing makes January 1 different from the day before or the day after! Still, I always welcome the chance for a reset, making silent promises to myself about how I want to improve. I try to keep my resolutions in the realm of realistic, like returning to my daily yoga practice or drinking more water.
This year, I’m adding a commitment to rethink a few things, beginning with my thoughts around productivity. I was raised under the mindset that busy is best. I wake up most days thinking about what I need to accomplish. Only just recently have I realized there is a detrimental flip side here: I am awful at relaxing. Being a mom has made this worse, because it feels like there’s always something to clean or tidy. I even schedule my TV watching around laundry folding. Gah! It’s not great. I’m just beginning to unpack all of this.
Is there anything you are rethinking this year? Any beliefs or habits you are holding onto that could benefit from a bit of reconsidering? I’d love to hear from you. Send me an email: Hello@SoManyThoughts.com.
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Thank you for all of your support on Instagram in the midst of our COVID Christmas. It was quite the rollercoaster and your kind comments have meant so much. We were extremely lucky that we had a mild experience and in a very privileged position to easily handle the holidays at home.
ICYMI: Our COVID story is here. The tl:dr is that my four-year-old son, Oliver, tested positive. The rest of our family remained negative, including Matt and myself (both vaxxed and boosted), our six-year-old fully vaccinated son, and our two-year-old unvaccinated daughter. YAY VACCINES.
So many of you asked questions on Instagram about our COVID experience that I thought I’d compile answers to the most common ones here. A gentle reminder that I am not a medical professional! This is just my family’s experience.
How did you know your son had COVID?
We learned Oliver had a close contact at his (very careful) pre-school the weekend before Christmas. He initially tested negative but a few days later spiked a low-grade fever. His cheeks were flushed, too, and he seemed tired. I had a sinking feeling our time had come. We tested him again with our Cue Health system and he was positive. To confirm, and check for spread, the whole family had PCR tests. Oliver was positive, the rest of us were negative.
Do you know if your son had Delta or Omicron?
I do not.
How many days after the positive test did your son test negative?
Oliver was symptomatic for about two days with a low-grade fever of about 100F, a sore throat, and tiredness. He bounced right back but — and this was eye-opening to me — remained positive on the rapid antigen test through Day 9.
This New York Times article has more on rapid home tests during Omicron: “Antigen tests are excellent at flagging people who have high viral loads — and who are thus most likely to be actively transmitting the virus to others, experts said.” Oliver, and the rest of us, tested negative on Day 10. Later that day, I heard him quietly singing a song he made up: “I have no more COVID!”
Did I understand correctly that you had symptoms but repeatedly tested negative?
Yes. Around the time Oliver developed symptoms, I did, too. They were in-line with what I’ve read about Omicron and not symptoms I usually get with a cold: a sore throat, lower back pain, and exhaustion. I tested negative seven times, including two PCR tests a week apart and rapid tests in between.
Did you lose taste/smell?
I did not, nor did my son.
Did you try swabbing your throat on the rapid tests? Or just your nose?
I mostly swabbed my nose but once did a combined throat-nasal swab on a rapid antigen test. In hindsight, given the reports out now, I wish I would have repeated the throat swab. (More on Omicron and throat swabs in this Huffington Post story.)
Do you think you had COVID? Even with the negative tests?
I don’t know! My best guess is that I got some version of it from Oliver (I couldn’t resist cuddling him when he was sick). My hunch — again, just a hunch — is that my freshly boosted immune system fought it hard and kept the viral load from getting high enough to detect it.
How was “mild” for you? Were you functional? // I’m vaxxed/boosted. Would you say it was like a bad cold?
Yes, it felt like a bad bug. I was still functional. This hit us just before Christmas and I managed to do what I needed for the kiddos, including two late-night gift wrapping sessions. I drank a lot of water/tea and took naps almost every day, falling asleep hard and fast for two hours at a time.
I always wonder how we would handle COVID with young kids. Any tips? // How did you protect Bird?
It was tricky! Our six-year-old son, Fitzgerald, is fully vaccinated, thank goodness; he got his second shot before this hit our family. Our two-year-old daughter, Bird, is not.
My kids are like puppies, all over each other all the time. So my approach was to do the best I could without making everyone miserable. There is no way to completely isolate a four year old! Here’s what we did:
Separated the boys for sleeping. They typically share a room; we gave Oliver his own bed and moved Fitz to an air mattress in our playroom.
Switched from cloth masks to disposable surgical ones. (urnal article explains why cloth masks aren’t enough anymore. We’ve retired ours for now.) I tried to get Oliver to wear the KN95 ones we had on hand but the cone shape bothered him. But he kept his surgical mask on.
Masked as much as possible, both indoors and outside. The boys were the best at it. The sad reality is that they are used to wearing masks all day at school. It didn’t seem to bother them to wear them at home. It was quite an adjustment for me and Matt; we work from home and only wear masks when we go out into the world. Bird was the toughest. She has only ever worn her mask in short spurts. I would say she was without a mask more than she was with one during our isolation.
Split up the kids whenever possible, including for baths, screen time, and stretches of play time. It worked best when Matt would play with Fitz and Bird downstairs, while Oliver and I played together upstairs.
Spaced ourselves out at meals but we all still ate together.
Went outside whenever possible. I insisted all roughhousing and contact play took place in the backyard! More than once, we went for a masked walk in the rain.
Real talk: We did our best with mitigating measures but were far from perfect. I want to underscore that I believe our vaccines and boosters did the most for us. Full stop. I am certain they are the primary reason we did not spread it around our family.
Did you have trouble getting rapid tests? They’re hard to find where I am. // How did you have enough tests for the several days? Nervous about this if needed.
Our ability to test frequently was an immense privilege — and it should not be! I am enraged by the lack of access to free or low-cost testing in the U.S.
My family had three testing options. Last fall, we were given a Cue Health testing system by Matt’s employer. But when we learned Oliver had a close contact, we were low on the Cue cartridges needed for testing. My sister, who lives in the south, overnighted us several rapid antigen tests she was able to buy easily at a drug store there. Those tests covered us while we were waiting for more Cue supplies to arrive; they also helped us determine whether Oliver was still contagious.
For PCR tests, I was able to make our family appointments at a local pharmacy. Those tests were covered by our insurance. Again, huge privilege.
How often did you test everyone?
Even with all our access to testing, I felt the need to test judiciously. I didn’t want to waste tests or take appointment spots from someone else! But I also wanted to know as soon as possible if it had spread in our family so we could know if anyone else was contagious and restart our isolation clock.
Our testing was one part strategic, one part gut. We all PCR tested after Oliver’s rapid positive and did another round of family PCR tests a week later. We rapid tested if any of our other kids showed the slightest sign of a symptom. Because I felt so sick, I tested myself almost daily. In hindsight, I would say I over-tested — I was so confused by my negative results and worried about getting my other kids sick.
Before ending our isolation, we did one more round of family tests with our Cue system and PCR tests for Fitz and Bird. All negative.
Did you send your kids back to school? I’m in Bay Area and really questioning (4&7 yo).
Yes. Oliver and Bird went back to pre-school this week. Their school required a negative test to return.
Fitz goes to public school here in Los Angeles, which wasn’t slated to start until next week. LAUSD already has a robust testing program in place and just announced it was pushing the return date back a day to prepare and test. Each student will receive two free rapid tests. Plus, Fitz is vaccinated. I feel very confident sending him back.
We are stocked up on disposable surgical masks and I’ve ordered more KN95 masks, too (now I need to get my kids to wear them…).
How are you feeling now? Mentally/physically?
Thank you for asking. Physically I am OK. The mental burden of this was really the worst of it. I hope I look back and think of it as special time together, but right now the reality is that it was an intense and emotional 10 days for our family.
Right now, I am relieved to be on the other side. I'm not not worried, because I know we could be in this position again and it could be worse. But at least I know more or less what to expect. I'm so grateful for our recent vaccines and boosters; now Oliver has some immunity, which he didn’t before, and that’s wonderful. Bird remains my biggest concern. I’m really looking forward to when our littlest kids can get vaccinated.
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READ / A must-read opinion piece by Kate Manne on how damaging and complicated diet culture is, especially for our children. (New York Times)
READ / Proud sibling alert! My sister, Dr. Carolyn Holmes, wrote a piece on Desmond Tutu’s life and legacy following his death at the age of 90. (Washington Post)
READ / Voting rights activist and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has a new children’s book out called Stacey’s Extraordinary Words. It looks amazing! I loved this insightful interview she gave about the process of writing it: “One thing I thought about [in conceptualizing the book] was: How do you talk about losing and failing to achieve your goals at the same time that you encourage them to be hopeful and to persevere?” (Romper)
WATCH / I wanted to watch a movie without doing anything else (see above thoughts on relaxation...). Don’t Look Up lived up to the hype. (Netflix)
CLEAN / Looking to declutter? I love Emily Ley’s Simplicity Challenge, a month-long program of daily tasks (30 minutes or less!) to help clean out your home. (@Simplified on Instagram)
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I’ll see you back in your inboxes on Friday with a royal deep dive. Stay safe, friends.
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