Struggle Bus to Nowhere

Chalk it up to a Monday or end of March doldrums or COVID-19-induced chaos, but today was far from shiny. And no, that’s not just a comment on the weather (we had least had some sun today, which was, as always, very welcome).

This is the start of our second week of “home school” (there has to be a better term for it because what we are doing is so far removed from my friends who choose to home school) and our third week of being home. To say that we have yet to find a rhythm and routine is a bit of an understatement.

Yes, we did get school packets last week, but honestly of the five days of “school” last week, we really only had two mornings worth of getting after it thanks to crane viewing and birthday shenanigans. That’s just honesty, friends, and so is the fact that today’s attempt at starting fresh was, well, a disaster.

img_7264I won’t go into detail about each kid specifically, but as you probably know, we have three school age kids in our family currently and that means three different curricula we are suddenly trying to implement from our dining room table. That still leaves two, quite small, quite needy children who also need attention during those “school” time hours, and even with two (non-primary, mind you) educators in the house, We. Are. Struggling.

In addition to all this, Ben still has to compile work for his own students, too; while he’s in touch via email, he’s not currently doing much grading, which is a huge help. I, on the other hand, am continuing with my business (teaching) as usual which means I do have active grading and work to do each day/week, and like so many other parents trying to do it all while going nowhere, we are feeling the crunch and stress of these times. It is hard not to feel like we are failing on multiple fronts throughout the various days.

This morning saw two out of three children loose it, followed by two out of two parents doing the same. I was in tears multiple times because this is an incredibly hard balance to strike and thank goodness I had some willing and able listening ears to let me vent and talk it out a bit away from the children. I don’t know that Welsch Academy has come to any final conclusions on how to proceed, but I do know that what matters most to me right now is the relationship with each of my roof-sharers, not the amount of school work that any of us accomplishes right now.

After our multi-meltdown morning, we moved right into lunch and then a telehealth speech session for LT which is still new for him (and for me) and that too came with a bit of a rough start, but then he warmed up a bit and was willing to do the activity his provider sent, even though it involved coloring (that’s part of the untold backstory of the morning). It maybe helped that I let him use Sharpies which is rare, but the main thing I want to share with you here is this, his insane, slightly demonic, but incredibly symbolic and awesome bunny, that I think might just be the best representation of COVID-19 that I’ve yet seen (and I promise, that’s so not what his speech path was going for; it’s just a made-me-laugh happy side product of a rough day):

img_7265

In no way do I mean to complain about the work or services that are being provided for our kiddos right now. We are grateful that so many caring folks are trying to keep their brains and hands busy. But I will be honest when I say that we, personally, are handling a dang lot right now and pretty much every minute of every day feels tinged with hard. Adding schooling to that is extra challenging. And again – that’s just an honest take on things from a tired, overwhelmed Mama.

If I had a magic wand, I’d one, take away all the illness and put our world right again. But if I could have a wish in place of that one, it would be that all expectation be lowered/taken away right now, especially for our kids, because what we as parents are facing right now is a busload of work and worry. Every age and stage comes with a struggle and I know each and every one of you is dealing with some heavy and hard right now. I really wish we could all just step back from the trying to do it all even as we go nowhere because just like living in isolation, that is not how we were made to function.

I promise we won’t give up the good fight and we probably won’t give up on the packets either (because Mama and Daddy are big rule followers), but we are going to keep trying to find a way that works for us and maybe that will look different from how it works for others. That has to be OK. Because, as I tell myself 10x a day, none of us knows how to do this life right now and it is hard. I’d much rather some beautiful moments of connection come out of it than a power struggle over school.

Much love to all of you out there navigating these waters. May they be just a little less crazy with each day to come.

Stay-at-Home Bday

Let’s be real – it’s not like I had big plans for today before all this COVID-19 business started, but by golly, it’s beyond strange to be forced to do nothing out and about for your birthday, even when you’re a fully grown human and it wasn’t a milestone birthday or anything much more than a Thursday in the first place.

Thankfully a lot of birthday came to me today in the form of calls, messages, Marco Polos, FaceTimes, and deliveries/pick ups of goodies, food, and coffee, and a freaking surprise parade of my people honking, waving, yelling, throwing gifts, and even playing me a trumpet solo of “Happy Birthday to You!”! Y’all know how to make a girl feel loved, even in the middle of a quarantine. Side note: I really need to learn how to spell that word on the first go so I don’t have to right click and fix it every blessed time I try to type it. For Pete’s sake.

Anyway, today is my 38th birthday and it is one for the record books, even if it isn’t a “milestone.” Like everyone these days, I have never had a birthday in the middle (beginning? first third? where oh where are we in all of this?!) of a pandemic and it is strange and hard and sad but necessary to be away from my people who don’t share a roof with me. The only downside to all the bright sides of the day was not being able to HUG my people. I miss hugging. A lot.

img_7235Thankfully my roof-sharers did a much better job this year than last year to give me all the birthday love (last year they forgot; I may have flat out told them that wasn’t an option this year), which included letting me sleep in and helping Daddy make some family birthday goodies and so on. I also got a little YWA swag as a gift that I love, love, love. Finding what feels good feels both a little harder and even more necessary than ever these days.

But yes, I don’t think I will soon, if ever, forget what it was like to have my day fall during a time when outside contact was cut off. No birthday lunch out, but we were able to get a tasty meal gifted our way all the same. No coffee dates either, but a mocha delivery and a 6+ foot driveway chat with a friend still brightened my day. No extended family gatherings, but family FaceTime and phone calls and that amazing parade still made me smile (and let’s be real – cry a little).

And beyond all else, birthday or any day, I am grateful that I get to be home with my roof-sharers, because that is exactly where we need to be right now, doing our part to keep this dang virus from spreading more than it already has. And I am grateful for our health and our love both inside and outside these walls, and for another ring on my tree because every single one is a gift and treasure.

Thank you for being part of it. You made this birthday one for the record books!

Literal FIELD Trip

Last night I got a burr in my bonnet about going to see the cranes, something we’ve literally never done with the children, but I decided that this was the year, the week, the day that we were going to make it happen.

This morning we got the kids eating breakfast earlier than normal and all psyched to go and then?

The van was dead in the garage.

Say what?!

A friend said this is a good PSA for our stay-at-home-ness…we’ve driven so little in the last two weeks that our car died.

But seriously – CRAP!

After much effort and many minutes later, we finally got the garage cleared, the van jumped and then jumped again (and again – it was dead, dead, dead), and then the stuff back in the garage, only to discover that our battery was going to take time to wake up certain features like the locks and automatic doors, making for loading of the actual children to go on the actual field trip TRICKY.

Solution? Clown car pile in of all five children climbing in over the back bench seat to get to their assigned seats in the van itself.

Way to be flexible, Welschies! Literal and figurative!

img_7201

So, we finally left the house only to discover driving through town that the fog was really REALLY thick this morning. We couldn’t even see lights in approaching intersections, so how were we going to see cranes in fields?!

After driving around town for a long while to let the battery get good and charged, we headed back home only to realize as we pulled on to our street that the fog had indeed lifted. Hooray!

A quick pit stop (with heavy complaining from just one child about having to leave again) and we were on our way north and west in the direction of Alda, NE in search of the Sandhill Cranes.

Of course, once we got north of town we realized that the fog hadn’t lifted everywhere, but by golly, we were NOT turning around again, so we carried on and made it to our desired country roads where yes indeed we did find the cranes and maybe the fog even kept us in luck of good viewing even after our super late arrival.

The kids, even the sour one, LOVED it. We watched them dancing and walking and stopped a couple times to roll down the windows to listen to them call to one another. It was beautiful on so many levels.

We kept driving until we reached a little walking lookout area and there were no other people around, so we got out and could hear SO many bird calls carrying over the water, even though we couldn’t see any in the direct area. After a little more walking, we loaded up again and headed back along our route for a few more views before heading all the way home.

I wish I had kept a list of all the exclamations the kids made in watching the cranes, because their awe was pretty solid, but I’ll just keep the general feeling of time together and connecting with nature, instead, in this crazy but necessary time of social disconnect.

But hey, we survived our first home-school field trip, even with a dramatic start! And we even made it interdisciplinary with our conversation and some on-the-road sketches! Go team!img_7223

Captain’s Log, Day 7

Holy overwhelm.

Anyone else feeling that, too?

Like so much of this life, that feeling comes with more than one side.

On the one hand, I’ve been overwhelmed with love and goodness this week because even though we can’t be in the same physical space, some of my people and I are doing a much, MUCH better job of staying in touch. Whereas before we could go and do all the things and we were busy going and doing all the things, we are now stuck at home still trying to figure out how to do all the things, but in totally new ways, which includes using new apps like Marco Polo and doing more Face Times. I’ve honestly “seen” some of my friends more in the last seven days than I have in the last six months.

But still. This stay at home routine is HARD.

For one, my introvert is HURTING. I’ve tried my noise-canceling headphones, but even those aren’t doing the trick. img_7060

I love my little people. I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I love my husband. I am grateful he’s home with us.

But Lord in Heaven this never having a moment to myself, and being able to hear them through the floor and the vents even when they are doing screen time and the constant contact of all this is making me a bit crazy. Tell me again why we didn’t buy a ranch style house so I could be at one end of it while they are at another instead of being stacked like pancakes all the time?

Hopefully the weather will change soon and I can spend more time outside, with and without the children. I am really, really looking forward to that because right now, there’s zero indication of when this social distancing/stay at home might end. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s going to get worse before it gets better (and how I wish more people were taking it seriously because until we all do, I imagine that our attempts at flattening the curve will, well, fall flat).

The other sense of overwhelm, as I’m sure all of you doing this COVID-19 world with small dependents are experiencing, pertains again to all of my little people. Even though we are shut down, there is still a remarkable lot to do.

Don’t get me wrong: I am beyond grateful to all the artists and authors and institutions that are putting out content for kids to do right now. I’m grateful that our local teachers have been working to provide some weekly materials for their students starting tomorrow. I’m grateful to everyone who has sent me links or activities or anything for my little people to do.

But I also can’t seem to do it all. For one, it’s really hard to get 4-5 children all doing the same activity, even if it isn’t on one little laptop screen. And not that this is news to us or you, but even when B and I are both home, we’re still way outnumbered by the children and hoby pokes. Life is a lot, especially when you can’t go places. And we’re still trying to figure out this new world order, which means I have no idea how to fit it all in yet and probably won’t for a while yet.

Honestly, I’m OK with that. I mean, I have to be because there is literally no rule or guidebook for how to parent through a pandemic. So, like everyone else, I’m just going to keep doing the best I can, and hope that others will be gracious if my approach isn’t as responsive or shiny as some others.

img_2732What’s crazy is, for as much family time as we’ve had in the last week, I’ve felt like there hasn’t been much time to actually just BE with my kids. Finally, today, that shifted a bit. My favorite part was cuddling up on the “two couch” with my biggests, watching the live stream of my musical love, Nahko. It was musical medicine indeed, and made even better with the snuggles and sing-along with my crew. Again, so grateful to all who are putting out art and healing energy to help so many during this unknown, crazy time.

 

As we head into Week Two here’s a glimpse at the few coping skills I’m clinging to:

  1. Writing. Writing posts, writing messages, writing lists…all of this is helping me keep sane. Especially the lists – with To Dos and reminders and goals for each day.
  2. Hippie shit. When I feel myself getting spiny, I put on a mala (or 5). They are img_7157beautiful and grounding and noisy, which pulls me a tiny bit out of my head and into the present moment, for which I am grateful and of which I need. Daily burns of incense and daily meditation are also happening right now.
  3. Healthy habits. We don’t have any alcohol in the house. We didn’t stock up before/for this. Actually, for the last six months, I’ve rarely had any drinks and I am more than OK with continuing that trend, even in the midst of a world turned upside down. We are still getting kombucha, though, and that’s my self-treat-drink of choice each day.
  4. Scrolling less. I succeed at this some days and fail flat out massively on others. On one had, it’s how I keep in contact with folks now more than ever, but on the other, social media can be a loud and ugly place and quite frankly I’ve got enough noise in my brain these days as it is.

I’ve love to know how and what you’re doing. How the overwhelm as hit you and what you are doing to work through it. The “Going on a Bear Hunt” song comes to mind here because you know we can’t go over, around, or under this mess: we’ve got to go through it and we’re all in it together, so I feel for you and us and everyone right now and hope you are finding your way. At home. Safe and healthy.

 

 

Captain’s Log: Day 1

There’s no way I’ll be updating this every day, but for now, today deserves some documentation. It was our first of stay-home-school and from the sounds of it, it is far (far) from our last. As of this writing, social groups of more than 10 are being discouraged and last night the CDC recommended no gatherings of more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. I’ll be honest, we have NOT shared that tidbit with the children yet.

All things considered, today went well, but I feel a bit like I got run over by a bus. I can only imagine how we will all feel after weeks and/or months of this. And I even have my co-parent/co-teacher home with me all day. To anyone trying to make this float all on their own, I send all the mad respect I can your way because turning into a homeschool teacher over the course of a weekend is insane. Needless to say, none of us were prepared and that’s OK.

Also OK? Making plans and then letting them slide.

60601656994__25ab96ba-f0a0-4b89-b6bc-d8fe20dd3e9fBen and I made a schedule last night based loosely on one that my educator extraordinaire SIL sent me and we had our day broken up into chunks of time called “Creative Time” and “Explore Time” along with Reading and Writing and Math and Free Time and some Screens, too. The Creative and Explore blocks are meant to be flexible so we can do different art or Legos in one and science and outside play in the other. And I’m sure we’ll keep referencing it (and it did help to have snack times written down because that kept them from eating all of the snacks before the end of the first day), but to be totally transparent? The entire day was Lego Time. There was a little Kahn Academy for the Big 3 and a couple kids rode bikes for a bit in the cold, gray afternoon, but yes, Lego Day it was.

img_7051

PS: If you have ever gifted my kids Lego, I extra thank you today because we are going to get a few good days out of this building frenzy and that is a huge blessing. THANK YOU.

I did a quick survey of the children at the end of the day and here are their standout thoughts:

HD: I liked the day. Legos and Kahn were good. I’m sad that we can’t have play dates.

RL: The day was okaaaaaay. (this is my girl who LOVES school). I liked the math, and Lego time, and free time (which was also Lego time). I’m sad to not go to school for two weeks.

LT: I liked Kahn Academy. (he was also one of the bike riders that turned into snowman attackers; whatevs.)

TJ: Playing ball with Lincoln (which is what he was doing in the living room when I asked him this question after supper).

WA: she didn’t answer the question but was really happy to Face Time with Grammy this morning, so we’ll go with that.

I personally had an up and down day because I already felt isolated in late February/early March thanks to our freaking Norovirus disaster, and now to realize that I’m really not going to see my people beyond the ones who live under my same roof for weeks to come is hitting hard. I’m not a huge social creature but even introverts have needs and this is hard. All together, I’m afraid this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint, and I’m just praying that it does the job of keeping the spread from, well, spreading. Because of course that will make it all worth while, but it is going to take TIME before we even know if that’s the case and we’ve got to keep chugging along, alone at home, in the meantime.

How are you doing, folks? What are you doing to start off your lockdown? How are your kids? I send each of you some love and hope you have what you need.

Going the Distance

As I’m sure many of you can relate, anxiety and stress levels here the last few days have been intense. Since Friday we’ve shut down all interaction with people outside the four walls of our house, but it wasn’t clear until late this afternoon if that would also pertain to Ben and the kids and school in the coming days. Thankfully, the administration made the call to take this week off to see what/how things develop with the COVID-19 spread, and I am beyond grateful to know that we will have seven more days of being just us in our own space.

We are fortunate that both of us will be here and that we have what we need for food and supplies. I know for many that the main concerns of school shutting down are food insecurity and childcare. These are large scale problems and I hope communities will continue to look out for each other however they can while also maintaining as much physical space from each other as possible.

For us, it is a matter of keeping everyone active and engaged (and not breaking each other and the house or us). I’ve already been getting links from Grandma and the some of the kids’ teachers, plus all the shares on social media of institutions and companies offering free services, so I think we’ve actually got more than enough to fill the coming week. And yes, we plan to do that by going the distance in terms of physical distancing to the extreme. (If you get the song lyric reference of this post’s title, kudos my friend; kudos! It has nothing to do with parenting but everything to do with high school and ear worms. Sorry/not sorry.)

We’ve been fairly open, within appropriate limits, of discussing the virus with our kids, so they understand why school (and church and play dates and going anywhere) isn’t happening right now. To make them feel more at ease (my 8yo *hates* to miss school) we did a family planning session at dinner tonight of school-related activities that we can replicate at home. I share this not to say others have to do the same, but simply to give an idea of how we hope to spend our days.

img_7043In addition to recess/PE (can’t wait for the snow to melt and the yard to dry out again), we’ve got plans for circle time (for the preK’er), math via Kahn and Prodigy (and Daddy), reading time, yoga (via Cosmic Kids on YouTube), snack time (snacks will be the reason we need to go to the grocery store first), some form of art, science via baking, and yes, some much needed screen time because heaven help me, I struggle to work from home with two kids in the house, so continuing to do that with all five of them here is going to be interesting.

There’s no way we are going to worry about doing all of that every single day, because this is still going to be a challenging time and I don’t think anyone should expect anyone else to be focused on much beyond their health and well-being until we know what we’re up against here. And if the spread slows down or is smaller than we currently fear, then GOOD. That is literally and utterly the whole point.

For my own personal take, I know my anxiety is doing much better now that we can shut down and focus on our family, which includes the crappy task of keeping physically distant from our parents right now, too. I just hope that others will practice the same level of caution as much as they possibly can.

 

Fear and Faith

Since my last post, which also happened to be germ-related but only to a stomach bug and not a pandemic, it feels like the world has changed. A lot. Actually, it feels like the world is right this moment in an unsettling amount of shift, as if the changes are literally happening with each passing minute and none of us know exactly where we might land when this ends.

Look. I’m not here to lecture or preach or try to convince you of anything actually. I’m here to record my life and my experience because that is what I’ve always used this blog for, and now feels like a time that needs some processing, recording, and grounding, because, dang…stress levels are running at a fever pitch right now, even if no one you know is actively running a fever (and I pray they aren’t and won’t).

Today I was supposed to be in Denver for the book tour of one of my favorite authors ever. Yesterday she cancelled all but two events, including ours and I spent all of last night trying to figure out just how serious all the professionals are about this social distancing thing. After tossing and turning instead of sleeping all night, I decided by this morning that nope, I couldn’t in good faith go and expose myself to an unnecessary crowd, and then woke up to an email that the event was in fact cancelled anyway, which brought a sense of relief because I knew both I and the event coordinators had made the right choice. And right now so many of us are dealing with similar decisions, some on small-social-event scales and others like what-to-do-about-schools massive scales.

I realize that the best thing to do right now is not freak out but honestly, when are you already a person prone to over-thinking and anxiety, that’s a pretty tall order on top of actually trying to navigate how to prepare and plan for your family to move through whatever the heck is yet to come.

Right now I have no answers. I know we will do our best to limit exposure (but does that mean shutting down everything except for school as long as school stays open?). I know I’ll keep harping on the children to wash their dang hands all the live-long day (just like I always do). I know I’ll start looking at our pantry and seeing what I can do to meal prep and make sure that we are prepared for illness should it come. I know I’m going to revisit my yoga and mediation practice to see if I can tap into some sense of calm because there seems to be a whole mess of chaos, information, opinions, and noise flying through the air and the interwebs these days and pretty much everywhere (real and virtual) feels like potential scary place to be.

And even though I don’t plan on taking my family to church for a while (even though they’ve been working hard to stay on top of what they can do to limit exposure during services), I’m going to see if I can do a better job of clinging to the message posted on our sign board this week that I happened to see today while driving a kid to an appointment instead of heading to Denver, because as much as I want to believe in the good of people helping others (and I do), I think right now I also need a sense of some higher power also looking out for me (and you and everyone).

img_7020