Last week in lockdown, my household got some pets. Some stayed with us a lockdown length of time, which is short. In that case, they were born out of the text that arrived via one of my WhatsApp groups, promising hours of fun for the children as they brought 3D animals into our home via an app. A tiger on the kitchen counter. A turtle in the bath. A dog on the sofa.
Do I need to explain? Didn't your household get, well, minutes of fun out of it too? And then the pictures began arriving, again via the various WhatsApp groups, of everyone else with a tiger in the kitchen, a turtle in the bath, a dog on the sofa.
The novelty lasted the now familiar lockdown limit of approximately one hour, from the first text to the point that other people's pictures began to get irritating.
Our other new pet is still with us, however. It's on the kitchen windowsill, in a Kilner jar - rubber seal removed, a bit of air does it good - and it's starting to grow nicely. There's nothing special about this pet, they seemed to have been given life in many homes across Ireland this week, as we started baking up a storm in the face of more severe restrictions on our freedom to circulate.
A sourdough pet - the fermented starter that activates sourdough bread - is a summing up of last weeks' state of mind. It speaks of an agitated sense of siege and panic: what if the bread runs out in the shops or it becomes too dangerous to visit them?
However, the sourdough cultivation and all the baking also speaks of a simultaneously slowed-down mental state; why buy ready-made bread when now, for the first time ever, I not only have time to bake, but also to spend up to a week fermenting one of the ingredients?
It's the quick-slow pace of lockdown life. It's what's kept us relatively sane through week three, a week that featured a shift to acceptance that home schooling will be with us for a while, that our parents and grandparents will be people on a screen for some time, that simply going to the shops feels like Soviet Russia, with added sense of personal threat.
Life as we know it now is a roller coaster of rapidly changing emotions and thoughts, good, bad, optimistic, catastrophic, flat, giddy, irritated, affectionate, and then, at the same time, it's a slog. It's a drawn-out, where-and-when-will-this-ever-end? slow shuffle.
The fast-paced bit has its own momentum, as you skitter through the various emotions, and you get stuff done that needs to be done, and you juggle working from home with kids underfoot and you get their homework done and you put on the dishwasher for, unbelievably, the third time today in a household of four, and you wonder why there's so much laundry if everyone is wearing less of their wardrobe.
The slow bit is more tricky. The slow bit is what drags you down, in my experience.
In terms of the home schooling, we are all playing to our personalities at this stage. Some are still doing all the work the school sends. Some rejoiced in the arrival of RTE's home-schooling daily broadcast, delightedly accepting that if it's Department of Education mandated, it's basically school.
I'm a bit of both and finding peace with the corona-contradictions.
I feel the frantic panic that they'll fall behind, or never settle into school again, followed by the slow embracing of the fact that they're learning other stuff, that their mental health is more important than their multiplication tables, that we are all doing our best.
My two daughters are still doing the work, but if bits don't get done, we're not distressed.
The nine-year-old who has Down syndrome, needs my full and undivided attention to get through what has now settled into a pattern of two blocks of work, morning maths and afternoon English.
The 12-year-old gets on with it by herself, though several days last week, she was still faffing around with elements yet to be done as dinnertime approached. How did that happen? I'm getting them up at 7.30 every morning, almost two hours after I rise myself to get work done before they're awake, and the day is long, right?
Except that's it, the day is long and yet it flies by. When she's telling me at 6.30 in the evening that she still hasn't watched the Powerpoint sent out by the teacher, I'm wondering what the hell we've been doing all day that the homework isn't done.
What we're doing all day is surviving.
My mind turned last week to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books I loved so much when I wasn't much younger than my 12-year-old. Ingalls Wilder wrote the books on which the 1970s TV series Little House on the Prairie was based, but that was a sanitised version. There were several books in the series, which charted the Ingalls family's various homes around Kansas in the mid-to late-19th Century.
I loved it all, the way they literally built a home around themselves, constructed their lives, had this make-and-do life where if you wanted something, you had to create it. Her description of churning butter is stuck in my brain to this day, and, I learned recently, modern-day adventurous spirits keen to get back to basics and live without modern convenience use her books as instruction manuals in how to survive.
I always wondered, however, what the Ingalls did with their time. Outside of the chores and survival and stuff, there seemed to be blessed little else in their lives. Surely that wasn't it.
Last week, I got it. The stuff of surviving can eat up the hours, eat up the days, eat up all the mental and physical strength. You're busy, but you're not sure what you've been doing.
Quick-slow, and the little things get you through. The tiger in the kitchen, the turtle in the bath, the dog on the sofa, the sourdough pet on the windowsill.
I've always half-thought of reading Laura Ingalls Wilder again. The full set of her books is on my daughter's bookshelf. I might just do it. Apparently I have the time now.
Once I've filled the dishwasher again.