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What happens when both parents catch COVID-19 but have two children to care for

With both of us now sick, we set the bar at survival. We took turns with the kids. We wore masks and gloves to make their food. We begged them to put themselves to bed. We tried not to seem sick, even though we took one step forward, another back.

Both parents have COVID-19
Courtesy Anne Kornblut

[Editor's note: Anne Kornblut is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who now runs the news curation team at Facebook. She is also a mother trying to parent two children after a COVID-19 diagnosis. Now she and her partner are both fighting COVID-19. The following post was originally published on her Facebook page and republished here with her permission.]

Last Friday, Jon's doctor called to say he had it, too. Jon hung up the phone and made a plus symbol. Positive. Even though it was probably inevitable, the news was strangely shocking.

First: we're now okay, doing better every day—and count ourselves among the very lucky. We have not been hospitalized or gravely ill. Over two weeks of sickness, tests and quarantine, we've been showered with love from friends and still gotten paychecks. Our kids seem to be completely fine, and are with us.

But the second diagnosis was a second dose of reality. This thing was now really really real, it was here, and we needed to pivot into an even more heightened state of awareness—if that was even possible.

The medical advice, already unclear, got more confusing. If both Jon and I have coronavirus, should we test our two kids? No, the doctors said. You should assume your kids have it, or already did.

So does that mean we can all hold each other, and be together in the same rooms? Can I take off my mask and gloves? No, the doctors said. You don't want to give them more virus—more "viral load"—and make them or both of you even sicker. And absolutely no one can come or go from the house.

I gave up on the mask soon anyway—slowly at first, then increasingly as it became clear that the kids needed our normalcy more than anything. We kept our distance from each other and from them. But we gave occasional quick hugs. How do you tell a 7-year-old and an 8-year-old that it will be fine, their parents won't both die, without some little touch?

Our daughter, so ecstatic at her first hug after all that time, made me an "I'm better!" button and insisted I wear it. It was premature, but I put it on anyway.

The kids' questions were searing. "How do people have funerals for coronavirus if people aren't allowed to be together?"
"If I die from coronavirus, how would my friends who don't know each other know to come to my funeral?"

We started looking at the house in a new light. What surfaces had we touched? What towels had we used? Where had we breathed?

Jon realized his exhaustion in the days prior was the virus, not tiredness from solo parenting. With both of us now sick, we set the bar at survival. We took turns with the kids. We wore masks and gloves to make their food. We begged them to put themselves to bed. We tried not to seem sick, even though we took one step forward, another back.

I went from no fever to a low fever. An odd headache recurred, one that felt like a kind of brain fog. My breathing was up and down—never very problematic, just enough to worry. The weird loss of smell thing happened with me, though not Jon. We both needed naps. And yet. My emotional balance scale—with fear and sadness on one side, countered by gratitude on the other—started to tip heavily in the direction of gratitude.

In the last two weeks I've heard from so many people, many for the first time in decades. Everyone has a coronavirus situation. I feel so close to people so far away.

A friend I haven't seen since music theory class my sophomore year in college wrote that he and his wife are in isolation in Woodstock with their dogs, waiting to see if they test positive after several people from her work had. Another friend, from high school, wrote that she had moved her mother with Alzheimer's from a memory care home into her dining room after another patient in the home tested positive.

Testing positive. That's how we're all putting it. A friend in New York wrote to say that his wife, 12 weeks pregnant, "just tested positive." "I could really use some advice from a veteran," he wrote. Other friends have written describing symptoms—sore throats, low fevers, headaches, tiredness. I try to remember to put a disclaimer on all my non-medical advice, which mostly amounts to sharing my experience. In all of it I can't help being grateful that I have a reason to talk to this friend from long ago, or that one I never have time to call.

The outpouring from our family, friends, neighbors and total strangers has made us feel loved like no other time since moving to California. Several have dropped off groceries, including impossible-to-find Lysol wipes. One made homemade beef stew; another left us egg muffins. Yet another somehow managed to arrange a giant bagel and matzoh ball soup delivery. A group of friends gave us a gift certificate to a local toy store that delivers. Someone sent us Bombas socks (please tell me if it was you); someone else sent books.

After Jon got the doctor's call, in a moment of parenting panic, I went online to get our son a much-begged-for Nintendo Switch. They were sold out everywhere. I posted a desperate note in a local group asking if anyone had an old one they could lend. Within minutes, someone in our neighborhood—someone we've never met—had dropped one off at our doorstep. "I hope you have a speedy recovery. You'll be in my prayers," he texted from outside our front door. At the same time, another friend in D.C. convinced her three kids to send us theirs. What friends, what neighbors we have. So much gratitude.

And yet. The disparity between our situation and what is happening outside our walls is unthinkable. It's wonderful, and deeply unfair, that we know people who can share a $300 game without much thought. And why am I improving every day, while a 36-year-old school principal in Brooklyn died? The arbitrariness of who's gotten sick and who hasn't, compounded by the injustice of who's getting help and who isn't, compounded by the great imbalance of who can eat this week and who won't, is overwhelming. Almost as soon as Jon and I learned we had both tested positive for this horrible thing, I started feeling haunted that we are relatively okay.

Every night I have dreams about infecting other people. I'm in a movie theater, sharing popcorn with someone, when I suddenly remember I have coronavirus and tell the other person. I'm in a meeting, borrowing someone's pen, when I tell them I'm sick. Night after night.

Yesterday I left the house for the first time in 13 days and took a walk in our neighborhood. It'll be at least another week and a half, and probably longer, before we're out of quarantine, but doctors say we can go outdoors if we stay far from others. So I veered 40 feet away from the nearest pedestrians. Even then I worried about the wind carrying my germs. By the time I returned home, I had to sleep.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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