Smile Politely

Dispatches from isolation: April 24th

This new column offers a glimpse into how people in C-U are working and spending their time during this stay-at-home order. You can read previous installments here. Have questions, or want to suggest a person for this series? Email us at [email protected].

How are you spending your days in isolation?


I’ve been isolating since March 16th (my family since March 13th), so we have been home for five weeks now. My husband and I are lucky to be able to work from home. I’m the designated house-leaver of my family, and I go grocery shopping every two weeks with my mask and a few Clorox wipes. I pick up carryout for our family every Friday night, but otherwise, we stay home. So far, we are all healthy.

I am isolating with my husband Bryan and our two sons. It is Friday, April 24th.

6:40 a.m.

I roll out from under my weighted blanket. I start a pot of coffee and pour a glass of water. I walk into the living room to find my oldest son, seven years old, already awake and lounging on the couch with his Nintendo Switch. He pauses his game to show me his ideas for what he’d like to do sometime: have a piñata with 100 candies inside and write six books starring Boatie the Boat (his original character).

A child holds up a sketchbook with a drawing of a pinata with

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I write some emails and work on my upcoming Market Watch article while my oldest goes back to playing Pokémon Sword and Shield.

A child lays on a black couch with a Nintendo Switch. There is an open laptop with a screen too blurry to read in the lap of the photographer with a gray waffled blanket. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

7:23 a.m.

I serve my oldest breakfast (Cap’n Crunch peanut butter balls) at the kitchen table.

Coffee is ready, so I pour it into a mug that my husband made for me two years ago; it’s my favorite. I take my coffee to the living room and enjoy this quiet moment.

A coffee mug reading

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I scroll through social media and Reddit. My grandma sent me a message asking for a good biscuit recipe, and I send her my go-to biscuit link. I read about the current number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths (50,372 as of April 24th) and then, depressed, unplug for a bit.

8 a.m.

My husband and my youngest are still sleeping. I climb into bed and wake up my husband Bryan. He showers, dresses in pajama pants and a tee with a hoodie, and joins me in the living room with a cup of coffee. We sit and chat for a bit.

Bryan Buckley scrolls on his phone with a cup of coffee in hand and leg crossed. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

We let our youngest sleep as long as his little body wants to because school is cancelled. I tried homeschooling, but it was a total drag. All of us were struggling. Instead, we’re playing board games, going in the backyard, building with LEGOs, and developing a foundation of Film and Television Appreciation coupled with Video Game Proficiency. I feel zero guilt for not doing worksheets with my children (five and seven years old). Don’t at me.

8:45 a.m.

Bryan goes to work in our downstairs office/guest room. He is faculty in the Economics department at UIUC, and he has three courses this spring semester: two sections of intermediate microeconomics and a 400-level health care economics course. He works on the computer that he built himself.

Dr. Buckley works on a computer in a yellow office with two coffee mugs on the desk. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

He starts working on updating powerpoints for audio recordings of his lecture, and he answers emails from students. He has a couple of students doing research projects, so he reads their papers and gives feedback. 

I hang out upstairs with my oldest and talk about transformers.

A gray, plastic dragon transformer toy is being played with by a child on a black couch. Only the child's hands are visible. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

9:15 a.m.

My youngest wakes and climbs into my lap for a snuggle. I love this part of my day so much, and I know that one day, he will be too big for my lap.

He asks what day it is, and I tell him it’s Friday. He wants to have a dance party to his Disney Junior CD, and I join in.

A child is dancing in a messy room with a large open, sunny window. In the foreground of the photo, there is a cd case for Disney Junior songs. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

9:30 a.m.

A little friend calls to talk to my youngest, and they talk about what books they’ve been reading and what shows they’ve been watching. They giggle and play a guessing game. He shows her this “potion sprayer” made with magic gems. 

A child holds a clear container filled with colorful gems over a carpeted floor with books lying about. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

10 a.m.

I make my youngest breakfast: a fruit salad with strawberries and blueberries from my fruit box purchased from Central Illinois Produce and his favorite yogurt.

A child eats yogurt. On the white table, there is a bowl of fruit, a glass of water with a metal straw, and a clear container of colorful gems. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My youngest son has a severe corn allergy (corn is in everything), and this little yogurt is one of the only safe foods he can eat. Shout out to Donnie in the dairy department of Harvest Market for letting me order this yogurt by the case after finding the shelves empty of it at every store in town.

10:20 a.m.

I’ve been obsessed with these sour cream and onion biscuits lately, so I mix up the batter using flour that I bought (online and picked up curbside) from Hopscotch Bakery & Market.

As I’m measuring ingredients, I am interrupted by my kids for a refill of water, a banana, and a question about whether the creation they made was cool or not (spoiler: it was very cool).

A structure made from the toy Magnatile is on the carpeted floor of a child's bedroom. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Finally, the biscuits go in the oven, and 18 minutes later, they come out. I take one hot biscuit down to Bryan in the office, and I eat one myself. 

Four sour cream and onion biscuits sit on a parchment paper on a rose gold baking sheet. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

10:45 a.m.

Bryan is preparing to record lectures for one of his courses, and the house needs to be quiet.

A recording device is centered in the image. Behind it is a computer screen with graphs and economic information. Photo by Bryan Buckley.

Photo by Bryan Buckley.

I make lunch for the kids, thinking that little mouths full of food can’t make too much noise, right? A half peanut butter and jelly sandwich for each, served with fruit and Cheez-Its®. While they eat, I check my email. I respond to writers about upcoming interviews, continue my conversation with the organizers of Urbana Market at the Square, and RSVP to a virtual event for Mother’s Center of Champaign County.

11:15 a.m.

My kids join a Zoom call with my family. My mom reads them a story, and everyone brings something for show and tell. My sister, who lives in Miami, shares a coconut she found on a walk. My nephew in Orlando shares two watercolor paintings he made. My youngest shares a plastic turtle, and my oldest shares a board game.

A child holding a plastic turtle toy up to his face is video calling. An iPad is set up on a yellow side table with a screen of four boxes each featuring family. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

12:30 p.m.

My youngest’s preschool teacher comes to drop of his medication from school. She stands on our front walk, and through his bedroom window, my son shows her stuffed animals and tells her he loves her so much and misses her. 

A child looks out the window to see a teacher in a Mickey sweatshirt on the front walk near the grass. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

1 p.m.

Bryan’s lectures are recorded.

We let the kids run wild in the house. It is very loud.

2 p.m.

We begin siesta, our sacred, quiet time tradition. I lay down for a nap. My oldest plays Slime Rancher on the computer, and my youngest watches Lion Guard. Bryan putters around the house picking up a bit, searching for snacks, and scrolls on his phone.

3:30 p.m.

I’m up. I shower and brush my teeth. I brush my hair and moisturize my face. I even break out my jade roller.

A jade rollers sits on a white bathroom counter. A drawer is open revealing a variety of personal hygiene items. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

I put on clean pajamas and a tee, some makeup, and a scrunchie. Bryan lays down for a nap, and I convince the kids to go outside and play. I join them outside and leave my phone inside.

4:30 p.m.

I’m starving, so I head inside to order dinner (and pay for over the phone) from Sticky Rice. I also order some beer from Collective Pour online (a lager, a stout, and a sour). I wake up Bryan, so he can supervise the kids. I put on my cloth mask, grab my keys, and head out to pick up our dinner and drinks.

5 p.m.

Curbside pickup at Collective Pour is easy. I call to let them know I’m there, and the owner brings out my three beers in a to-go bag and puts it in my car from the passenger side. I drive across the street to Sticky Rice, park in the side lot, and call. Thirty seconds later, she brings the order out to my car, also putting it through the passenger window.

5:15 p.m.

I’m home with food and beer. I wash my hands. Then I wipe down the containers, my keys, and my phone with Clorox wipes.

Alyssa Buckley wears a mask and holds two plastic bags of to-go orders. She stands in the threshold of garage and house with the door ajar revealing a dark garage. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

My husband and I enjoy our takeout: egg rolls, pad thai, sesame chicken, and yellow curry. It’s so delicious.

Two small styrofoam containers are open: eggrolls in one and white rice in the other. Two circle containers are closed with pad thai and sesame chicken. There is a tall, plastic cylindrical container holding yellow curry on a black table. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.
An overhead shot of takeout: egg rolls in a white styrofoam container, white rice in a white, styrofoam container, sesame chicken in a black circle container, pad thai in a black circle container, and yellow curry in a tall plastic container. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

The kids eat a simple, favorite meal in the kitchen: buttered noodles, sliced bell peppers, and leftover chicken. Firstly, because they have not yet developed a taste for spicy food. Secondly, because my youngest’s allergies prevent him from safely eating most food. Thirdly, because we want some grown up conversation. 

Everyone is happy, and Bryan decides to open up the stout. We sit together in the dining room and pretend like we’re on a date.

Three glass jars of beer sit on a black table. All three jars have labels reading

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

6:10 p.m.

We draw baths for the kids and help them into pajamas. The boys eat ice cream for dessert.

We help the kids brush teeth. Bryan reads our oldest a graphic novel called Gravity Fall’s Lost Legends by Alex Hirsch, and I read our youngest There’s a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems. We say goodnight to each and turn out the lights.

Father reads a story to his son in bed. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

7:05 p.m.

The kids are in bed, and the house is quiet again. We relax in the living room. Our youngest comes out to say he isn’t tired. We give him a flashlight and tell him to read in bed until he is tired.

A dark room with a child seated in bed. The child is reading a book by the light of a flashlight. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

7:15 p.m.

The kids stay in their rooms, and we pour the rest of the stout and retire to the basement.

8:30 p.m.

We host a virtual game night on Zoom with some local friends.

An iPad on a stand made from LEGO bricks shows 6 squares of people. The top left corner pictures the author and her husband. Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

Photo by Alyssa Buckley.

12:10 a.m.

Time has gotten away from us, and we finally go to bed after another day of staying home.

Top image by Alyssa Buckley.

Food + Drink Editor / / instagram

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