The Rona Diaries – Week Four: Getting Through Lockdown with Gallium Balls, a Heavy Bag, and Snail Porn.

I knew it was trouble when I heard my wife open up the dryer and say, “What the frick?!” It wasn’t the words that told me something was definitely ‘fricked’ up, because she censored herself. We have three children who literally will hear every thing they’re not supposed to. No, it was the tone. That way she said it immediately made my ears perk up and my wallet clench.

What she had found was little silver droplets rolling around inside the dryer, droplets that looked like mercury. I had the misfortune of dropping an old fashioned thermometer when I was about eight and tried to clean it up, but the quicksilver skittered away from the paper towel I was using. But I had found that if I trapped it with my hand, I could sweep it into the towel. When I told my mother, I remember the look in her eyes, the calls to doctors, the worry all from these little weird balls of mercury I touched a few times. And now here was what looked like the same thing just bouncing around in the dryer for who knows how long, getting into who knows what.

picture courtesy of MaxRez @ YouTube

Do you know what it was? Gallium. Do you know what gallium is? Because until my scientist wife and I had kids old enough to start being curious, neither did I. It’s a completely harmless metal that melts at body temperature. It’s actually pretty cool, but turns out to be quite a mess if you just leave it around and it ends up somewhere that gets warm. Like a clothes dryer. My wife had ordered a small vial for my eldest kid and she had left it in her pocket. Of course she did. She’s left broken glass, bits of metal, rocks (so many rocks), coins, food, chapstick and necklaces, so why not rare, easily meltable metal. Luckily, nothing bad happened, and when I looked online to see what to do, literally nobody knew. Apparently this doesn’t happen often. Go figure. What was pretty cool is that it seems most of it was absorbed by our wool dryer balls and turned them a cool shade of dark silvery grey.

And I guess that sort of thing is expected to happen when you’re trying to fill seemingly endless hours we now find ourselves with. If you don’t find something to keep your kids occupied, hours can feel like days, days can feel like weeks. Time doesn’t make sense, and neither do your kids questions after the first few hundred. So, that’s what we’re doing. Filling the void with something besides TV and the internet. Well, not just TV or the internet.

From one parent to another, here’s a few missteps I’ve had along the way that both provided some very much needed distraction, some laughs, and a fair amount of stress relief. Maybe you can try them too.

We all know to get some exercise in as many different ways as you can. Ride bike, take walks and hikes, have dance parties are are excellent ideas. But I’m guessing you’ve done all that by now. I did, so I thought I should teach my kids how to box. I had ordered a heavy bag months ago but hadn’t set it up yet. So I did. My eldest kids had gloves from Taekwondo, but it’s hard to find gloves small enough for kids under the age of 10, so I recommend using those winter mittens you know you haven’t put away yet. They can’t punch hard enough to hurt themselves yet, and it’s adorable to watch. In the back of my mind I knew my kids will try this out on each other, but I figured that on the plus side it will make breaking up the fights more interesting. And for that added stress relief, have the kids hold the bag while you take a few shots at it.

Eco-Sphere with a nasty, nasty snail.

Are you looking to engage their minds and get outside a little bit? Might I suggest taking a hike and collecting material for an Eco-Sphere? “What’s an Eco-Sphere?” you might ask. It’s a large glass jar that you add lake muck, mossy sticks, some lake water, and all the crawling with bugs and life forms you would normally yell at your kid for playing with. Then, bringing it all into your home. You kids will watch those creepy crawlies with fascination, try to open it and play with them, and then after an hour forget it exists. It’s supposed to be a self sustaining ecosystem, but since you can’t exactly replicate an entire ecosystem of a lake in a 72 oz jar it will most likely rot and putrefy, then guess who will have to clean it out! However, if you’re lucky you will have the same experience my kids did of watching a snail orgy. We just happened to get about a half dozen small common snails and on day two they were all wriggling around right on top like the exhibitionists they are, depositing sperm packets with a VERY obvious appendage. Who knew snail envy was a thing. If your mind wasn’t engaged before, it will be to come up with a convincing cover story in five seconds. Might I suggest, if it comes up, they were kissing and they have huge tongues.

An hour later my eldest told me they’re hermaphrodites and that they can impregnate themselves with their own sperm. To which my son immediately asked, “What sperm? Does it come out of your tongue when you kiss momma?” My daughter is lucky she’s fast.

And lastly, we thought we should see some local landmarks. One place that’s been on our bucket list is the Graffiti Highway near Centralia, PA. Don’t bother looking for it now, because the day after we visited it, the local municipality decided to cover it up because it has been drawing crowds and unruly off roaders for years, but especially now that people are looking for something to do to alleviate boredom and to get out. None of which we knew when we drove the 45 minutes to see it. ATVs, dirt bikes, Quads were zipping up and down. We decided to leave our mark and get out. Did you know what else we didn’t know? How many badly drawn penises we see? I stopped counting after twenty. I guess I had higher expectations of the local artists, but oh well. You would think that dudes would have a better grasp (pun intended) of what a penis looks like, but there’s some clear body dysmorphia going on there. So bandanas on, we tagged the Graffiti Highway, one of the last, like the weirdest gang you’d ever seen, then got the hell out of dodge.

I hope your home adventures are as fulfilling as mine. Laugh a lot, learn to run faster than your kids, and keep your hands up.

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