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The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318


Vanessa Sohan

Table of Contents

Keywords: parenting

Categories: Parenting as (Im)possibility in Impossible Circumstances; Visual, Sonic, Tactile, Interactive Texts as Self- and Collective Care



Transcript & Visual Description

Child eats large peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a kitchen table. Vanessa Kraemer Sohan and PB&J appear in white letters on top of image.

The only thing I predicted correctly about the pandemic was peanut butter and jelly.


Black title card reads "February 2020." then a screenshot of Google Calendar for day of February 28, 2020.

February 2020: I distinctly remember the day I started prepping for a Covid shutdown: Friday, February 28, 2020.


Backyard fire pit lit up against backdrop of Florida sunset over fence, lake, and palm trees.

It was the end of spring break at the university where my partner and I both teach. We had moved from Louisville, Kentucky, to South Florida for our jobs, and because we have no family close by to watch the kids while we go out at night like true adults, we’ve learned to take advantage of “day dates.”


Screenshot of YouTube video from The Guardian titled "Coronavirus: what you need to know" posted to social media with likes and comments.

That morning, we talked about the uptick of news around COVID-19 and decided to spend the last day of our spring break buying necessities at Target (sadly, a common day date destination).


Clip art peanut butter and jelly in the style of popular brands.

We were so naïve: we bought cold medicine, Clorox wipes,

Loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly placed beside one another on a black kitchen table.

peanut butter, jelly, and some crafts for the kids. No toilet paper, of course (who could have predicted that?). Close up of hand holding can of beer with fence, lake, and houses in background. And yes, alcohol.


Childrens' crayon drawings of stormy weather hang on clothesline inside a house.

I’ve learned to prep for hurricanes since moving to South Florida, and so I knew the peace of mind a

Loaf of bread, peanut butter, and jelly placed beside one another on a black kitchen table.

 jar of peanut butter and a plastic bottle of jelly can provide when you’re wondering what you will live on if the power goes out for two weeks.

Image grid with 3 photos of 2 children doing art projects in backyard.

Or, in the case of Covid, if you’re quarantining with the kids for a month (ha!).


Selfie of author smiling with two children in backyard, followed quickly by unsmiling young child working on a food craft in kitchen, selfie of man and child wearing tiaras in backyard, Screenshot of Google Calendar week of March 1-7, 2020, screenshot of university website with author's faculty photo and contact information.

In what follows, I describe my particular experiences as a care worker, parent, partner, teacher, researcher, and administrator during this pandemic. This narrative is necessarily framed by my position as a cisgender, heterosexual white woman and my privilege in the university as a tenured professor.

Infographic detailing student demographics at author's institution for spring 2021.

It also speaks to my experiences teaching, mentoring, and researching in a majority-minority Hispanic-Serving Institution for the last [10] years.

My story is driven by my experiences as a mother of two children, one with special needs. It speaks to my physical isolation from the support of close family because of my academic job, isolation which can be incredibly burdensome and lonely. I have had a hard time, but I know that I have had the privilege of access to resources so many did not have. It has to get better for all of us. We are not super women. We are burnt out. We are done.


Image grid with four photos including older child reclined and reading on couch above several images of a younger child engaging in outdoor activities in backyard.

Day 1 of social distancing started with high hopes.

Child bouncing ball inside house. He drops ball and scroll over video transcribes his question, "If I'm an adult, am I still a kid?"

A day later, my son was already getting bored.


Child reaches for plate of Mickey Mouse pancakes while laying on ground followed by pic of a young child plays with toy register seated on ground.

By April 15, I was trying to buy some peace and quiet, to no avail.

Half eaten peanut butter and jelly on blue plate on table.

We were slapping together peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on our breaks from trying to get my daughter to sit through at least an hour or two of Zoom Pre-K

Image grid with two images of children doing work at cluttered tables in front of ipad and laptop.

while also trying to get my son not to drip his jelly all over the computer as we pleaded

Child stands in front of laptop placed on makeshift standing desk made out of stepstool on desk.

with him to finish his online assignments for 3rd grade.

Social media post from April 16, 2020, picturing an annotated math word problem

These included math tests that maddeningly asked him to calculate time by estimating casserole cook times. Cultural bias?


 4-grid image posted to social media on March 27, 2020 shows a close-up of two adults and two children wearing a cloth mask with caption: "It's like Goldilocks and the three bears, but with masks. So far the elastic-over-the-head masks seem the best."

I learned to make cloth masks, and started an assembly line for friends and neighbors whom we got to know better than ever as we all migrated to our driveways to see something other than the inside of our houses.

Two grilled cheeses cut into Star Wars shapes on plates.

We added grilled cheeses to the mix.

3-grid image of April 2020 hanging calendar numbering quarantine days alongside child mixing dough and loaf in oven.

And the days just got longer and longer.


Screenshot of comic.

As time began to lose all meaning.

Child working on laptop while seated in backyard.

3rd grade continued, mostly asynchronously and with some tears from my son and from us.

Screenshot of Canvas login page for author's institution.

We finished teaching our classes as best we could, asynchronously.

Close-ups of homemadeTahdig, banana bread, skillet cookie, and pecan pie on countertop.

And we kept eating and cooking and trying to make the best of it, celebrating the Kentucky Derby at home.


Social media image grid from May 1, 2020, shows 4 photos of children playing in messy living room. Caption reads "2-day zoom workshop for both parents = big big big mess." Friend replies to author's post saying, "My place also looked like we'd been robbed by the end of the day."

For the record: both parents attending an end-of-semester 2-day Zoom workshop with kids at home and no help = big mess.

Image grid with 4 photos of child making rainbow grilled cheese sandwiches.

We were done. And we had so much left to go.


Grilled Cheese got a new twist and

Overhead shot of child sitting in the middle of big pile of legos.

we made more messes.

Social media post from May 9, 2020 linking to Medium article titled "65 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice" with author's caption, "65 things. Time to get busy."

We posted about racial justice while knowing it wasn’t nearly enough. 

And we ate more peanut butter and jelly.


Book cover with picture of quilt titled Lives, Letters, and Quilts: Women and Everyday Rhetorics of Resistance, Vanessa Kraemer Sohan.

My first academic monograph was out, but with the RSA and other conferences canceled, I did my best to promote sales on social media.

Author holds book in office.

Everything about the book still felt surreal, and even though I had the book in my hands and other people did, too, I felt no real sense of closure. Was anyone buying it, reading it, seeing it? Maybe.


Child raises hand in front of iPad at cluttered dining room table.

We made it to the last day of Pre-K,

2 children stand next to yard sign with youngest in blue graduation gear, followed by screenshot of child holding up pre-K diploma on Zoom.

at a school my daughter had attended for 3 years and where we had finally found a sense of community, care, and belonging.

Child stands in front of makeshift standing desk made out of stool on table.


And so it continued that spring. My son was struggling with anxiety, something that would continue to worsen over the course of the pandemic.

Child reads sitting on folding chair in backyard.

At the same time, he was reading and drawing and finding a way to make the most of it (drawing).

Child's pencil drawing titled "School of War, Volume 1" shows person being zapped and another person floating in space.

Online schooling was going just fine thank you very much!


Child sits with laptop and headphones sits in car, followed by child eats food in car seat.

That summer we made PB&Js on our 2-day drive to Kentucky, doing our best to minimize rest stops on the FL turnpike, bathing our kids in hand sanitizer in parking lots.

Barn painted with quilt sits atop grassy hill against backdrop of cloudy blue sky.

After months of social distancing, we were shocked by the hugs we received immediately when we arrived.

Social media post of grassy hill and trees captioned "Cherokee park morning” followed by 3 children work on fairy house in green backyard.

We hung out with family for a month, enjoying the break from the humidity and the high COVID numbers in Florida.

Person carrying child down tree-lined path followed by a hand holding a Kentucky-shaped iced cookie and then a Welcome to Florida sign shot from inside of car.

We stayed in Kentucky as long as we could, but with no firm plans from our home public school district, we drove back to Florida to start it all over again.


That fall we tried not to despair.

Image grid with 2 images of person and child wearing same "I rocked my first day of kindergarten" paper crowns.

Remote classes, zoom classes, PB&J, losing our minds: check, check, check.

Child sits in front of laptop at small desk followed by pictures of child on laptop

 We were struggling with our own classes while admiring the incredible patience and endurance of our kids’ teachers as they taught Kindergarteners and 4th graders to navigate Microsoft Teams.

And so it continued.

Rainbow in sky over park field.

We tried to see the positives, but we felt every negative deeply.

Half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich on blue plate.

On and on and on, in an endless loop.

Child plays drums to White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" accompanied by person off screen playing electric guitar.


Pandemic teaching meant attending to the needs of as many as we could: family, students, and kids. Never enough time, energy, or patience.

Half-eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwich on blue plate.

Lots of half-eaten sandwiches.


Screenshot of Outlook inbox folders and Apple Finder window.

At the same time the mundanity of visible and invisible service and administrative work continued: letters of recommendation, advising, thesis committees, IRB approvals,

Child eats peanut butter and jelly at kitchen table followed by 2 plates with macaroni, fish sticks, and corn on counter.

 and more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, along with fish sticks, corn, and anything else that was easy (we were done making fancy pinterest items at this point). 


Pink Barbie RV with "I voted" sticker on front and then screenshot of text chain celebrating election.

The election meant celebratory texts with friends, though our texting had slowed over the last few months because really, what was their left to say other than, we wish everything was different.

Half-eaten pumpkin pie in dish on counter.

No family trip to Kentucky for the holidays meant more Halloween candy and Thanksgiving fixings for us,

Person holding up black sign made to look like passcode screen on iPad followed by cranberries in Star Wars-themed dish.

especially for mom the keeper of the passcode but we had no one to share it with and the kids could tell we were just as sad as they were to be alone.

Black and tan puppy in backyard followed by Children's drawings of characters in the cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender and then Sleeping puppy wears red "Fire Nation" collar.

We made the possibly poor choice to rescue a pandemic puppy named Zuko in honor of our fall 2020 family binge watch of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Turns out he’s the only puppy who doesn’t like peanut butter.

Child sits on bed organizing quilt squares.

I finally made a quilt, after studying quilts in my research for years.

Screenshot of Zoom meeting participants list.

 I shared my success with grad students in our last Zoom meeting.


Spring 2021, more virtual school.

Screenshot of email titled "Re: Acceptance Letter" from author's institution.

I was on sabbatical, an incredible privilege and a horribly timed disaster.

Child doing worksheets in front of laptop at table.

My daughter required us to sit with her all day. I started out optimistically, trying to read books during virtual kindergarten, then articles, then popular but relevant nonfiction books, but eventually gave up.

Child sits in front of laptop next to globe and window.

My son was more and more anxious, as he worried about the internet cutting out and cutting him off from his teacher and his class, many of whom were back in person after the holidays. He felt more and more isolated from all the kids at school.

2 children do work on ipad and laptop and dog sleeps on couch.

Dealing with his anxiety while dealing with our own 3-5am anxiety attacks was becoming untenable.

Close-up of Apple watch shows data from run.

I continued to try to run my own anxieties away, listening to podcasts and feeling cut off from any kind of community.

2 children and adult at beach.

Finally, it was spring break. And while spring breakers flocked to Florida to spread Covid, we celebrated by packing some PB&J sandwiches and finding an empty beach!


Selfie of author double-masked in vaccination tent followed by First day of school photo shows two children standing in driveway next to car.

Vaccinations meant we were FINALLY, after 12 months out of the classroom, able to send the kids back to school.

List of Apple Finder folder titled "Sabbatical Research" with many files.

3 months in, maybe I could get some writing done? I settled for trying to read, take notes, and stimulate my research brain cells; the pathways were there, I could tell, but they were not readily accessible. Everything took longer than it should have, but I was grateful for being able to sit down in a quiet house for the first time in a year.  

Two pieces of bread fly out of toaster with plate and bread and jelly in background.

The chore I had formerly dreaded, the packing of lunches, was now a pleasure. I wasn’t even mad that my son was too busy talking at lunch to eat his PB&J.


Spring 2022: It’s been two years since that Target trip.

Screenshot of institutional website about "Healthy Living" during Covid.

We’ve been in our classrooms since Fall 2021, in a state where masks have been optional pretty much since the start.

Small paper coffee cup sits on table.

During office hours recently, a student brought me a Cafecito from one of the machines on campus. I appreciated the gesture, and hated that I worried about taking down my mask to share in this kindness with her.

Child eats peanut butter and jelly sitting at kitchen table.

Like a PB&J, the Cafecito is easily shared and a sign of home.


Branch with multiple phalaenopsis orchids and buds and hand blurred in background.

My son recently told me he just wants things to be normal again. I said nothing is normal anymore. (And no one is normal anymore, I thought to myself).

He told me, “It’s been two years, Mom. This is the new kind of normal.”

You know it’s a cliché, when it comes out of the mouth of kids. I guess he’s right.

Title shows "Vanessa Kraemer Sohan PB&J" over image of orchids.


Note: Personal images and screenshots taken by author. All other images covered under Creative Commons Licenses.



Cafecito. (2022). Free Images. Creative Commons License. Retrieved from

Inman, M. (2020). Before after quarantine. The Oatmeal.

Peanut Butter. (Nd). Retrieved from

Repopulation. (Nd). Retrieved from

Student Demographics. (2021) Retrieved from

Toaster. Retrieved from



Vanessa Kraemer Sohan is Associate Professor of English in the Writing & Rhetoric program at Florida International University, where she also serves as Associate Director of the Interdisciplinary and Liberal Studies programs. Her research and teaching focus on translingual and transmodal approaches to literacy practice, feminist historiography, and material and cultural rhetorics (particularly quiltmaking). Her book, Lives, Letters, and Quilts: Women and Everyday Rhetorics of Resistance (University of Alabama Press, 2020) provides case studies of how women writers, activists and artists rhetorically deploy unconventional means and materials. Her scholarship has also appeared in College English, Pedagogy, JAC, Journal of College Literacy and Learning, and Reworking English in Rhetoric and Composition: Global Interrogations, Local Interventions (SIUP, 2014) and Deep Reading, Deep Learning (Peter Lang, forthcoming).

Table of Contents