Fostering curiosity in kids (and their parents) since 2011

Pandemic Diary 17 August 2020: My Shelter-in-Place Birthday

(Photo: Shala Howell; Festive birthday string: The Thirteen-Year-Old Howell)

We have had a few birthdays since shelter-in-place began. Mine was especially fun.

There were signs

The Thirteen-Year-Old conspired with the cat to hang up birthday signs all over the house. This one, which she hung on the inside of my bedroom door the night before while I was sleeping, was my favorite.

Birthday sign has Canelo’s paw stamp of approval and reads: “Mrowww, mew meow!”, which the sign helpfully informs me means “Happy birthday! I love you!” in cat. (Photo: Shala Howell, Sign: The Thirteen-Year-Old Howell)

That sign is super cute, but what was really great was every single time I opened my bedroom door I found this guy waiting for me behind it.

My cat, Canelo, waiting for me outside the door with the orange sign. (Photo: Shala Howell)

I honestly don’t know how The Thirteen-Year-Old managed it. I suspect it involved a lot of hurried cat transport up and down stairs. And treats. Canelo has gained half a pound since last month’s weigh-in, so I can’t rule out treats. Still, it was clearly a birthday-only thing, because it hasn’t happened since.

There were surprise visitors

My sister and brother-in-law stopped by for a driveway chat. Since they normally live in Texas, this was kind of a big deal. Thanks, y’all.

My brother-in-law. (Photo: Shala Howell, Signs: Meg Brown)

There was an impromptu birthday experiment, because science

My brother Paul and I have been playing backgammon over video calls this summer. I’m surprised how well it works, actually. He sets up a board on his end, I set up my board on mine. We train our web cams on our respective boards and then mirror each other’s moves.

For folks who don’t play backgammon, the object of the game is to take all of your pieces safely off the board before your opponent. Doing so requires a mix of good luck (getting good rolls of the dice) and strategy in making the most of whatever dice roll you actually end up with.

Since our birthdays are close together, we decided to do a little experiment to see whether birthday luck is a factor in backgammon. To test it, we played a couple of games on his birthday, and a couple of games on mine.

Verdict: More testing required

Paul won both games on his birthday, but that’s par for the course for him. It’s hard to say whether birthday luck was a factor or not.

I won one of the two games on my birthday, but it was a gammon, which I don’t do very often. (When someone gammons, that means they’ve gotten all of their pieces safely off before their opponent manages to get even one of theirs off. Gammons are worth two points, instead of the usual one.)

Birthday luck may have been a factor for me. Not a very powerful one, though, because Paul promptly won the next game.

My birthday game in process. I played the beige checkers, Paul played the dark brown ones. (Photo: Shala Howell)

There was some crafting

Crafting then broke out for a while, while Michael took care of all of the things that keep our house running smoothly on a daily basis (kitchen cleaning, tweenage entertainment, cooking, cleaning up presents from the cat who may or may not have been struggling to digest all those treats, etc.).

As you know, one of my pandemic goals has been to use up all the random yarn I have lying around the house. I wanted an afternoon-sized project, so I made a bunny.

Bunny. (Crafter/Photo: Shala Howell, Pattern: Emma the Bunny by Kerry Lord, Kit: Toft)

And of course, there was food

Remember that bit about my husband cooking? While I was crafting, Michael made me a lovely birthday dinner, complete with a from-scratch chocolate cake, all of which was ravaged before I remembered to take a picture of it.

Fortunately, a day or so later, a friend of mine dropped off a belated, but delicious blueberry birthday cake, which I did remember to take a picture of.

(Photo: Shala Howell, Cake: Kristen Lee)

Clearly, I do not have a future in Instagram Food Photography. Still the cake was perfect, even if my picture of it isn’t.

My birthday looked pretty different this year, but I still loved every minute of it

Drive-by visits, video calls, and having friends drop off food rather than staying to help me eat it, felt weird and wonderful at the same time. This year is so very different, but it has its good parts nonetheless.

Home. Food. Friends and Family. This year, those feel especially important and not at all guaranteed. I’m grateful for every phone call, video visit, email, text, drive-by visit, and birthday card from family and friends scattered across the nation. Thank you all. It’s always such a joy to hear from you, but it was especially meaningful this year.

I hope any shelter-in-place birthdays you have this year are also filled with lots of love and your favorite shelter-in-place type things, whatever they may be.

Related Links:

4 Responses to “Pandemic Diary 17 August 2020: My Shelter-in-Place Birthday”

  1. :)

    Happy Birthday! Sounds as delightful as a Shelter-in-Place birthday could be! Kudos to your loved ones for helping to make it so special.

    I love your posts. Your writing style and insights brighten my day. Thank you for sharing!


    • Shala Howell

      Hi Cheryl,
      Thank you for the birthday wishes and the encouraging words! I’m so glad you’re enjoying Caterpickles.

      I hope you and your family are doing as well as can be expected these days.



    • Shala Howell

      Hi Roy & Betty,

      Thank *you* for continuing to read Caterpickles after all these years. 🙂

      Looking forward to the next time I get to see you in person,




What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: