Windows

As a teacher, I can’t imagine being live via the Internet, streaming into homes where not only students but also their family members could hear and see me. All the time.

The thought of that is exhausting.

Also taxing is being on the other side of that, in an at-home learning situation where your child is essentially opening a window to your house and life by being present in streaming classes.

And I have three who are doing this, so I don’t have just one portal into the private space of my home, but a whole trio of them that now makes the main floor of my house a very odd place to be during school Zoom times (which start and stop and overlap all throughout the morning and early afternoon).

This means that I have to be cognizant of what is not only on each work space in terms of school supplies, but also aware of what can be seen in the frame behind my children’s heads, including my own person and how I show up or not in the shot as I rotate from kid to kid to make sure they are doing OK and that all the technology is working OK.

As previously mentioned, this means I can’t do any of my own work during this time. Our perfectly fine internet just can’t handle that. Hell, I can’t even check certain apps on my phone during their live lessons, so once I get to a spot where they are all up and running with their online classes, I have approximately 2.25 spots in which I can sit and not be seen on someone’s screen and about 2.25 options for stuff I can work on that isn’t distracting to them and that I can put down at a moment’s notice when one of the three has a question, a break, or a tech problem.

Have I mentioned the word exhausting yet?

At the end of last week I thought we had hit a bit of a groove but today, the first morning back after a long weekend, and a Tuesday mind you, is our first rainy day in MONTHS which is glorious, but it also meant no before-school two-mile walk, which meant half of my children were quite Zoomy before their actual Zooms started today. And trust me, we did two Cosmic Kids yoga videos on YouTube to try to combat this, but oof. I love me some fall but probably not in the context of not being to go outside as easily with my already cooped up forever kids. Stupid 2020, taking my favorite season and turning it on its head.

As an introvert, there is nothing that I love more than being in my house (preferably with some time TO myself, but clearly that has also gone out the window this year). Living with eLearning challenges that because my house and family feel on display in a way unlike any other school year. On a side note of pride, there has been no swearing in front of a teacher yet (I try SO hard not to swear in front of my kids) but there have been toddler meltdowns and interference for sure, and the littlest two are hardly even here during live lessons! But for real – if you’ve wondered what this looks like on a patentable end, it is this: me hiding in a lawn chair or on the kitchen rug, set up in a “dead zone” where hopefully no one can see me but I am instantly accessible to any of the three who might need me.

Don’t all eLearning parents hide on the kitchen floor at some point in the day?

Thank goodness the live lessons don’t last all day, otherwise I would be a pile of mush on the floor by the end of each one. As it is, I’ll be over in my can’t-be-seen corner typing blog posts in the Notes on my phone and wondering why I didn’t think to design a spot for comfy seating into our kitchen. I mean, honestly, what was I thinking?

Little Mama Engine

“Fake it ’til you make it” is not a new concept to me. I’ve been doing that in a lot of ways for a lot of years. But wow, does it feel applicable to life right now.

Life right now is a lot. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 11 years now and I’ve never gone in to a fall with this many kids in my house and this much on my plate, as I am and as I do with eLearning life that started yesterday. And that’s even with my mom here to help so kindly by taking the two littlest for me in the mornings so I can focus on what the Bigs are doing for their eClasses.

Also, let’s be clear. It’s Day. Two. I’ve gotten them through TWO of their roughly FORTY-FIVE days to which we are committed to this and everything is still introductory and I still feel this overwhelmed by all the technology and who does what when and who needs help with what when and did I mention that our district is doing a fantastic job of not actually piling a bunch on here at the start and it is STILL this hard?

But y’all, of course this is hard. No one knows how to do this, including my 5th, 3rd, and 1st grader (who still doesn’t know how to read), and we have a LOT to figure out in terms of time management and dual (nope: tri-) helping from me when the kids are Zooming, and then you know there’s meals and laundry and outside time that all still need to happen and don’t forget about Me Time because I still have to be a functioning sane person which isn’t going to happen if I totally abandon my own routines and needs. And did I mention that 2020 is a shit year in which to try to get under control one’s years-long sleep struggles? Holy. Shit. I am so tired. So, so tired.

But y’all, we are doing it, because what choice do we have? We made the decision to eLearn and so we are. And I am sure it will get better as we adjust, but there have been some big feels and big swings in emotion – for myself and for the children – in the last two days. There’s probably more of that to come tomorrow and every day after that.

Which brings me back to the Little Engine that Could.

Huh?

Stick with me for a minute.

Yesterday, in a message, one of my friends said something about “I think I can” and my brain latched on big time because what I need right now is a mantra to get me through this insanity. I actually wore my “Keep Fucking Going” bracelet yesterday, so again, it’s not like this is a new concept to me, but the image of a little train, chugging down the track whether she knows how to or not, whether she wants to or not, is SO fitting to me right now.

We have no choice to get off this ride any time soon (and I repeat: I’m not complaining about how it is being done – just clarifying that this gig is hard for everyone involved). So the only real option left is to start telling myself that “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can” on a regular, daily basis and just keep fucking going because that’s the only way we’re going to get through this.

Plus, it’s totally got me itching for a new tattoo. Sorry, Mom! I guess in the meantime, Thomas the Train (that won’t be the tattoo, btw) lives on my kitchen window as a reminder.

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Glimmer Moments

I’ve mentioned Glimmer Moments before during this new world order of living, but again today I found myself thinking of the phrase often because, well, there were several of them and they are still just as much worth clinging to as they were early on in this COVID experience.

As I mentioned in the last post, things feel pretty rough these days. There’s a fair bit of feeling adrift happening for me right now and I think that’s pretty reasonable given everything we’ve got going on/not happening in our lives. The COVID Coaster continues, and while I’ve got these beautiful glimmers to share with you, I’ve also felt this palpable sadness this whole evening that not even my walk and shower could shake. I’m just sad, so I’m sitting with that and writing through it as one (I) does (do).

Speaking of walks, those are still happening on the daily for me. I’ve been at this for FOUR months now of never missing a day and I’ve upped both my fitness and my endurance because I now walk closer to 30-45 minutes a day and somewhere near 2 miles each of those days. It doesn’t burn off all the crazy yet but goodness, I look forward to it, especially now that B is gone all day at school and my walk is the only “me” time I get in a given day.

One of today’s glimmers also involved walking, but not just for me.

This summer Ben took the kids on gobs of walks and sometimes I would go, sometimes I would not. Let me clarify – even if I accompanied them, I would still do my own walk later because as those of you with little Littles may well know, walking with children is parenting, and parenting next to streets, so no, not “me” time in any way, shape, or form. But this is to say, Ben trained them well over the summer and now that Truman magically started riding his two-wheel bike (at age 4 years and 11 months) and Wilson suddenly figured out how to pedal her trike (that also has a handle for Mama or a sibling to give extra push/direction), walking with all five kids is actually sort of doable!

And doable or not, we’ve been doing it because the days of Daddy gone to school but no at-home school started for the Bigs yet have been L-O-N-G and we have needed some major energy busters.

Enter stage left: 2 mile walks with five kids on various modalities* of movement. (*Wilson always rides on something – a stroller or her trike; HD and RL take turns walking or scooting or sharing our biggest kid bike because RL’s has bad tires in need of fixing; LT and TJ zoom zoom zoom on their two-wheel bikes, which is great expect for the one time TJ’s chain fell off when we were still 2/3 of a mile away from home. Crap.)

The first one was a total fluke. I mean, I initiated the walk but had no idea that kids would take me up on my offer to go a full mile away from the house which would mean we’d have to go a full mile to get home, but they did and we did and I mean, it was cool. It felt like an accomplishment.

And then yesterday we did it again.

And then today it was THEIR idea to do it for a third time.

And tonight before bed they were already talking about taking Our Walk in the morning, and oh my gosh, I’m thrilled because it is such a good way to spend time and energy, and I’m proud of them for their determination and, quite frankly, a little proud of myself for getting out there on the bike path with them to make it happen.

So yes, Glimmer Moment.

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Another one came in the form of Wilson’s pre-nap routine today which has shifted a bit since I wrote about it last. We now must read two books exactly and sometimes she needs to (re)shut the door to her room and she must turn on the sound machine and I MUST say “Sweet Dreams and Sweet Pickles” just like Daddy does and her stuffie and blanket must get hugs and kisses from me just like she does. All this is true. But today we did an extra moment of snuggle between songs (three of them, after the two books and lights out) and I told her, “Wilson, I love you so much” which she followed up with a “I love you bigger!” that about left me reduced to a puddle in the rocking chair because if that isn’t the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard, I don’t know what is. She’s got some pretty big opinions in her not-so-tiny toddler body, and that’s not always easy to navigate, but she also is just the most polite and lovely little person you could ever wish to meet. And her hair is super long but you’d never know it because it’s always curled up in perfect ringlets that somehow always fall just to her shoulders (or spring out from underneath her bike helmet).

Again, an extra shiny Glimmer Moment.

I don’t know what our walks will look like once eLearning starts next week or how frantic the baby’s nap routine might become as we navigate Zooms and assignments and all the other normal parts of life we still have going on here at home, but I’m so grateful to have these moments today and to recognize them for the gifts that they are. Parenting can be such a slog sometimes and so much of the work is thankless, (and trust me, they are far (far) from being perfect (so am I)) but these little moments of pause and the ability to see the beauty in the chaos? I’ll take that any day.

Cocooning

Without even realizing what I was doing, I went full cocoon mode to start this week. In fact, I didn’t even know that term until last night when I was chatting with a friend and she used it, so really I can take zero credit for it but I am definitely going to keep using it because it is very much what my heart needs.

Cocooning, right now – for me, meant deleting my social media accounts from my phone. There’s just so much noise, on so many levels these days, and one in particular – back to school – has been breaking my heart on the daily. Instead of being tempted to “just check it real quick” and easily slip back into those patterns as I have throughout various attempts at this, I decided computer access only was the way to go. I’m sure this is temporary but for this particular week, it also felt necessary. Because while all the schools around us and even the one we’re supposed to be attending is getting back to it, we’re still waiting, as our kids won’t start e-learning until next week.

Here’s the thing – when you’re in a district that’s doing e-learning as an option and not the only delivery method, it’s hard to feel connected to anything or anyone because it means you’re in your own online bubble and not with the elementary school that your kids normally attend. That’s fine, but it also wasn’t something I was prepared for, so it caught me off guard and all of the typical first day pics and posts from the school and friends? All of that just feels like it’s not for you because you chose not to be part of that world. And friends, let me tell you, the self-gaslighting that’s been going on for me lately about all of this has been tough.

It has been incredibly hard not to feel left out or left behind, even though we chose our choice and still stand behind it with as much (un)certainty as the next family may feel right now. My brain, however, has been telling me when I look at other family’s pictures of first days and sports and whatnot that I’m the only one who is concerned about what school and the fall will bring, even though I know that’s not the case, even for people who are sending their kids in-person. It’s also incredibly hard not to think that I’m hurting my kids socially by keeping them home, that their friends and classmates will move on and won’t have a spot for them in their circles when we eventually do return. Again, I know deep down this isn’t true, but at 3AM when I’m wide awake and worrying, these are the lies that spin quickly through my brain.

So I decided to wrap myself in a protective bubble and put FB on major mute for a few days because I have so much energy that needs to go elsewhere like to the three Bigs who are awaiting more info on what e-learning will look like starting next week, and two little kids who are adjusting to daily life without Daddy home for the first time in five months, and speaking of their daddy, my heart is also adjusting to the fact that he’s now off to full days with full classes and all the stress of getting back to the swing of in-person teaching, much less in-person teaching in the Time of COVID.

It’s all a lot, and I know that’s the case for everyone these days; this particular withdrawing for me is really the only way I know to protect my energy. So to those of you doing the same, whether it is e-learning or self-gaslighting or sending and worrying, I see you, even though I’m over here in my own little bubble. I feel for your hearts and I hope you find an ounce of peace as we all move forward in our own way.

Moving forward for me looks like this: I’m going to remind myself that I’m not actually in this alone, and thanks to people reaching out with messages and texts, I know the truth of that, even when my brain tries to tell me otherwise. At the same time, these are unprecedented days and to feel a little (or a lot) crazy at times is probably the most normal thing any of us could do. I can own that when it happens, too.

Thank goodness for our cocoons, in whatever form they take. May they be there as needed as we move through all that is yet to come, and may none of us feel pressured to come out the other side as some sort of beautiful butterfly. That is definitely NOT the goal of this cocoon.

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Off He Goes, Go He Must

Growing up with a farming dad, our family got pretty used to the ebb and flow of a schedule influenced by the season, the weather, the livestock, and whatever other chore or task needed to be done at a given time. I was never very involved on the farm but I have so many memories of growing up in that environment, watching my dad do his thing.

With his constant coming and going from the farm to the field to the shed, he had some routines (coffee breaks with his dad and uncle are seared into my brain) and expressions he stuck to, including telling us, “Off I go, go I must” when break time was over and he had to get back to it.

After five months of “break” for my husband from school, I can’t help but think of my dad’s catchphrase here today because like it or not, agree or disagree, teachers here and across the country are preparing to be (or are already back in) the classroom, but in circumstances like none of us have ever before seen. Without any real idea of how this will go, they must go and there are a few things I’d like to see folks remember as we move forward into this bizarre, uncertain time.

The first is this: be kind. There is so much stress surrounding this school year on personal and professional and familial levels. There are also as many opinions out there as there are people in this world and having to wade through all of that is exhausting. Please show some respect and grace to educators who are trying to do their best even in the face of confusion and downright angst from deniers and dissenters. None of them signed up for this role of front-line health protector of kids and their families (much less themselves and their own families), but yet here we are, with them stepping up to the plate to be just that. Yes, other essential workers have been out there, doing the work, and outside of the healthcare field, none of them signed up for such risk either, but the weight of the world that is being put on schools’ shoulders this fall makes my heart heavy.

The second is this: send a prayer or a good thought or a kind word to a teacher sometime soon. Think of their families who might be worried about or put at risk by their going to school. Thank them for doing yet another monumental task on top of the work that we readily agreed in the spring was super hard to do without them.

It will be so strange to have Ben gone all day after so many months of his being home with us, but off he goes, go he must because the next task is at hand. It’s a big one, and I’m accepting here and now that it’s possible that we’re going to be in a bit of a funk as we learn how to navigate all that it entails. Goodness knows we’ll do our best to show kindness and gratitude, though, as we move through it all. And coffee breaks, at least on the homefront and before B heads out the door every morning, are still going to be a very, very necessary part of the routine.

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The Great Unknown

Let’s be clear – in April and even in May, I still thought my kids would be able to get together this summer with their classmates and teachers and have some sort of closure and “goodbye” to last year’s classes which would maybe, somehow, make up ever so slightly for the insanity that was the COVID-19, unexpected end of 4th, 2nd, and Kindergarten for my school-age kids.

In June and early July I kissed that idea and all other group social settings goodbye for the summer and started trying to figure out how to get masks for my kids that could be washed, worn, and replaced/found as needed because clearly having just one was not enough for whatever was coming this fall. I mean, we still rarely go anywhere, and granted, no one has had to wear one for an entire day, but so far in small doses, my kids have done a good job with them which felt like a baby step in the right direction for the coming school year.

And then in mid-July, as numbers started to climb again, I realized that all my hopes of returning to some sort of normal this fall were once again uncertain and I started entertaining the thought of something I never thought I would consider: voluntary (at) home school via an e-learning option.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: this blog is about me, my children, and our life. I’m not here to tell you what to do. I’m simply telling you about our lived experiences, as a way to share and document what’s happening in our lives.

And our life is as such: I am married to a public school teacher. My kids attend public school in the same district. I am the daughter and granddaughter of public school teachers/administrators. I even taught 7-12 English for a year in a tiny NE town. This stuff lives in my blood. But for the first time ever, I’m not sure I can handle sending my kids to any school that meets in person outside of this house. And trust me, I know what a privilege it is for me to even be considering that.

But here’s the deal. Even if the chances of my kids getting sick and staying that way are low, the number of intersections that my family would have with three kids in one elementary building and a husband/dad in a high school building is just way too much for my comfort and concern levels. And yes, we’ve already made the call NOT to send No.4 to preschool because that would be another heavily trafficked building, and YES, I broke down and bawled after making that phone call because the thought of him missing his five-day year breaks my heart. But the increase in potential exposure, when we’ve been as careful as can be, was just too much.

And so goes our thinking with our other kids, too, even though Ben obviously does not have the choice on whether or not to be in the classroom. I already work from home, so if I can continue to do that while also working with them on school, which would keep their would-be in-person classes smaller while also keeping B’s exposure through them out of those classrooms (that’s confusing, but I promise it makes sense if you sit with it for a second), too. And to me that feels like a contribution to the health and safety of all the adults in our elementary school, not to mention other families that don’t have to interact with that many buildings/people.

Does it suck? Yes. A lot. There’s a ton to miss by sitting out and every time I go down that rabbit hole, my head and heart get heavy. It seems like I am, throughout each day, noticing things around my house that are school-related and I’m realizing that for the first quarter at least (that’s the minimum commitment to the online option in our district), my kids won’t be part of it. And that includes a newly renovated building they’ve been waiting two years to see. Again, my. heart. hurts.

Do I worry about socialization for my kids who are already months in to missing their friends and classmates? Yes. A lot. But I also don’t think socialization is going to be normal at school, even if they are there, soooooo……

Do I worry about my own ability to teach them from home without Ben’s help? Yes. A fair bit. As of right now we are planning to go with the school’s provided online instruction option, not an actual home school waiver, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel just yet here, folks. And having a set schedule/routine will put us leaps and bounds ahead of where we were in the spring, so somehow, I will figure it out and it will be fine, even if it is far from pretty.

Do I worry about my own sanity to teach them from home without Ben’s help? Yes. More than a fair bit. But I also can’t imagine how I would feel if they got sick or passed something to someone else, even unknowingly. I have some legit PTSD from having a newborn baby in the NICU for three weeks and that was with me by her side 12 hours every day. To have a child, spouse, or parent be sick in the hospital without access to any outside visitors? My brain can’t go there. And no, that’s not me living in fear. It’s me living in my experiences thus far and what I’m willing to put forth at this point in time with risk factors.

Do I wonder what safety measures we should be putting in place for Ben’s coming and going from school every day? Yes, a ton. The lack of compassion I see on the internet for teachers right now (and by extension, their families) is appalling. Who else is crammed into contained spaces with that many people for that long of time, day after day (factory workers, perhaps, and we’ve seen how well that has gone in terms of testing and prevention)? And when you take into consideration secondary teachers who see multiple grades and classes throughout the day, the potential for problems is huge.

Thankfully our district is presenting to the school board that masks be required for the upcoming school year. Unfortunately that option won’t be decided on until Aug. 10 and in order to opt out to online instruction, we must respond by July 31. So not knowing more about what rules and procedures will look like makes it hard for me to just wait and see on this one. They did offer an online Town Hall Monday evening which I attended with earbuds in and pencil in hand for note-taking, but even after getting some questions answered, I still don’t think in-person is where my comfort is for my kids. I mean, I clearly know where I fall on the risk tolerance scale and even though I feel insanely isolated at this point in 2020, I can only make the decision that is best for me and my family given our situation, circumstances, and knowledge.

So, it’s blue light blockers for all (to protect their eyeballs and brains from school-via-screens), and to all a good night.

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Just kidding. I don’t see many “good nights” in our near future as we wait/ride this out and I am feeling far from flip over all this.

I think the levels of uncertainty and stress have the potential to grow quite a bit between now and the start of school as we navigate just what it looks like to have a husband/father on the front lines (don’t even come at me on this one; it’s long been true of educators and this year more than ever) and a house full of kids who are beyond sick of each other and this situation.

But also, when we discussed with the Bigs about the potential of them not going to school even when Daddy does, they got it. It’s not ideal, and they’re with me that it seems like there are more bads than goods about this, but they also see that by keeping them home, we’re still just trying to do our part to keep our neighbors and our community safe as well as our immediate family.

If only that protection* and these decisions came with an option as easy as some non-script glasses.

*Masks! Masks are protection! And we’re thrilled our district is planning/hoping to recommend them for as many people for as much of the time together as possible. I really do think that will help and maybe it means this school-at-home gig will only be for a short time instead of extended. I can only hope and pray that’s what happens here.

 

 

Morning Mama Time

Pre-COVID I had grand plans of establishing a new early morning wake up routine to try to help settle and calm my night sleeping routines. Like pretty much every other attempt at normalcy, all that went out the window in late March. Granted, I probably needed it more than ever then to get some “me” time but hells to the no, 5:00A was not on my list of priorities in early quarantine.

Now that we are eleventy billion days into this, I have had to (re)establish some patterns and habits because we.are.struggling.

For one, as previously written, I started walking. I haven’t missed a day of that which means I am somewhere near the three month (who actually knows; time is weird) mark of getting my rear in gear on the daily. And that feels good. In the last couple weeks, due to fireworks and full days, I’ve had to do multiple sessions on the elliptical instead and I’m pleased to see the progress I have made in strength and endurance. I can now crank out an extra 400 in the time it used to take me to do a mile and I’m not sucking air like I was back in February when I’d stagger off the machine.

The other “something’s gotta give” shift came in the form of a compromised get-up-early time. Instead of 5A, I started with 6:20 because, in theory, that gives me an hour-ish of time to myself before the kids are allowed to roam the house. And yes, I said allowed. I know people think we are weird for how early our kids go to bed but for the love of all things holy, they wake up so damn early, some balance must be made. And some boundaries must be set, which includes when they are allowed to turn on their lights to read/quiet play in the mornings and when they are allowed to leave their rooms for breakfast.

This early morning time has been great because it allows me to drink my coffee in peace, work on school stuff, and keep up with my 28 (56) days white supremacy book work. What it hasn’t allowed for, however, is actual kid-free time.

The oldest two would be just fine to read for their whole hour and the youngest is still in her crib (thank goodness) so it is the two middle boys who are the biggest loose cannons, with the middlest of all (who still can’t read and now sleeps on the main floor like me) being the worst and most interruptive cannon of all. Oh, Linky. I love you to pieces, and, you test my patience a lot when it comes to giving me my peace that I am seeking out by getting up early in the first place.

How is it so hard for children to understand that Mama does NOT want to parent before 7:30A?

Of course that doesn’t mean that I actually ignore them. I parent a lot on a lot of my early mornings. But as this quarantine life continues, this need for space also persists.

And as a side note: quarantine does continue for us, even when it seems like many of the people around us have moved on (even as cases and deaths continue to rise). We saw grandparents for the first time for the 4th of July weekend to celebrate Linky’s birthday and the Big 4 did get to participate in their first outside-the-home activities this past week (camp at our favorite local nature center and summer orchestra), but that’s it. And it probably will be for some time, because unless people start taking masks seriously (and not just for photo opps) this is going to drag on for the foreseeable future. End side note.

Depending on how things unfold, I may just keep pushing that get up time earlier and earlier because it really is the only way to get shit done with this small country of children that share my roof around all the time. Another side note: I am not actually complaining about that, nor do I want them to stop being around so much any time soon; I just want a little ounce of Morning Mama Time to keep me feeling OK in one of the most not-OK-est years that I have ever known.

Intense Mode

Look, I’ll be honest: I’m not sure if I should be writing about COVID life, challenges with my kids, protests over Black Lives Matter or anything at this point. Instead I’m going to muddle my way through all of it, because that feels more true to life these days as we are swirling through all of these big movements and moments all day, every day.

I’ll go in reverse order and start with the protests. And again I’ll say, look: I am no expert. I am a human being trying to do better. And what’s more, I’m a white person, who is listening and learning and reading and unlearning and looking really hard at all the ways my life has been made easier just based on the color of my skin and what I can do to make the world a more just, fair, and equal place to live for BIPOC.

A lot of that work starts in my own head and heart and under my own roof.

What I’m doing is reading and journaling through the Me and White Supremacy workbook. What I’m doing is ordering other books written by BIPOC authors, supporting them and learning from them as much as I can. What I’m doing is having incredibly img_8058frank conversations with my oldest kids about what is happening in our country right now and, importantly, why it is all happening. What I’m doing is trying to share resources and perspectives that help other people see where they can start in this work too. What I’m doing is leaving my house for the first time for a community event to attend a protest last week, not because I think COVID is over, but because this other img_8107disease is 400 years in the making and it must be faced. I share this not to get a pat on the back but to document that as for my family, we are listening. We are committing to the work. There will be mistakes made, but this will be a life-long effort all the same.

The challenges with my kids and COVID life go hand-in-hand, or rather, the challenges with my kids feel like a major, direct result of COVID life that has gone on now over NINETY days in our corner of the world. And it feels like a lot of folks have moved on, but img_8090again, in honesty, I’m struggling with that. It’s not gone, folks aren’t wearing masks consistently, and on a person note, the little members of my family are missing their people HARD CORE right now. All they want is their friends. And to see their extended family. And have the ability to go and do summer things like they normally would. And to get away from their siblings. And, and, and. And it all feels hard.

Emotions are running high. Lots of squabbles, lots of yells, lots of weepy moments. And mind you, that applies to the parents as much as the children because this just isn’t easy and there’s no clear way of knowing when life will feel and actually be “normal” again which makes it all seem that much harder in those intense moments.

And therein lies the point of this post: we – as a nation, as individual states and communities, as families, and as individuals – are stuck in some highly intense shit right now. On some levels, some folks have already been there (forever). On others, it feels like most of us are moving through some major, prolonged uncertainty. And again – as a collective and as a family unit – it all feels like a lot (because it is) and like it will be as such for a long time to come.

As I said, I’m no expert, on anything. I have no answers. All I know is that in our house, we will keep doing the work of anti-racism. We will keep doing what we can to keep our health systems from being overrun with COVID. We will keep trying to find ways to keep our kids moving through all of these big shifts and hard moments. And we’ll keep trying to keep ourselves sane and moving, too, because we know the work we do here has the ability to spread but it is going to take time and care and compassion, and yes, a hell of a lot more intensity, too.

 

 

Halfway Point?

Because I am married to a Math Man, we talk numbers a lot in our family. I mean, maybe not everyone would agree with my quantitative qualifies, because I am clearly the word nerd in the group, but for real, it seems like a LOT.

Since COVID life started for us in mid-March, we started keeping track on the calendar with just how many days it has been because honestly, how else would we keep track? And somehow, today is day 79. Seventy-freaking-nine of not seeing grandparents or friends in person, of playing at parks or participating in school and activities. I may not be a numbers expert, but it sure feels like that’s a crap-ton.

And again, because, Math, I also happen to know that today marks 79* days until school starts again in the fall. That means we are really only at the halfway point of this bizarre, unwanted extended summer that really doesn’t feel like summer because we don’t feel comfortable doing pretty much any of the things we’d normally do outside of our own yard in “the before times” summer.    *He tells me that it’s somewhere between 79 and 80 between tonight and tomorrow and oh my gosh are you kidding me, so many numbers and math! 😉

And that is a lot to process because, as those of you living with small armies of dependents you are responsible for raising/creating whilst existing in the midst of the most uncertain and stressful time any of us have ever experienced, we’ve sort of already reached our max of Together Time.

Are you feeling that, too?

In case you didn’t know, I’m a quiet person who likes quiet time and my house is never ever quiet anymore (not even when the children are on screens; in fact, sometimes when they play video games, they are louder in both celebration and frustration than when off them). And it seems that none of us is ever getting a real honest break or time away to do our thing. The closest I’ve gotten is driving to pick up groceries or grade papers off-site and neither of those tasks are vacation-like in any way!

Normally during summer we’d have a week or two when we’d be all home without something scheduled, but otherwise it would be this kid here for that camp or that kid there for something else, and goodness, without any outliers to break up the days, the constant togetherness is overwhelming. And we are still 79ish flipping days away from a real change in that.

Sidenote: I would be freaking the freak out if I wasn’t with my kids right now. That is not my wish at all. I am glad that we are privileged and able to be together during this time. And also, it is a lot to handle. Both things are the truth.

I keep trying to figure out how we can split things up a bit better but so far I’m still coming up blank as to how to make it happen. My latest approach is to let them pair or group up naturally to go off and play whatever and not interfere as long as it stays relatively peaceful. Sometimes that works (until it doesn’t), and then we try again. I don’t know how much that is different from pre-COVID life, actually, but all the same, I wish we had some better ways to shake things up (and spread the heck out from one another).

The way most days go, at some point (or ten) they end up in a prickly cluster in which they literally will not separate even though they are clearly not getting along (see image below). We are fortunate to live in a town with yards and a house with multiple rooms and not an apartment in a city where we’d be really really stuck together, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference to this crew – they still gravitate to one another and bicker.

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As it is, we’re just going to keep our fingers crossed and our hands washed and our masks on and hope against hope that all of this (and by “this” I mean the many, multiple, multifaceted layers of HARD that was this week in our country, but that is another blog post for another day) improves.

We’re willing to do the work to make it so (even if one of those “this”s means being on top of each other for another 79+ days).

 

Walk This Way

A month ago a friend posed a question to a group of us asking about what kind of movement we were doing that felt good and wasn’t a slippery slope into competitiveness. Now granted, the rest of us all happened to also be yoga teachers, but I think each of us has realized over the years that an asana practice is not the only way, and part of why my friend’s question struck such a chord with me is that the physical yoga I have been doing, especially since the start of the pandemic, hasn’t quite been the right combination to “burn off the crazy” as I like to put it.

That conversation sparked a commitment in myself to start doing something that might in fact counter all that. And while I’ve tried in the past to commit to a regular habit of walking (maybe I’ll get back to running someday but now is not that time), this time it seems to have stuck.

For the last four weeks, I have walked at least one mile or 20-30 minutes each and every day. There were a couple days where I did 20 minutes on the elliptical instead, but thanks to it being spring and the weather mostly cooperating (I have walked in the rain a couple times), I’ve been finding all different times of day and places to walk without fail ever since my friends and I had that (virtual) chat.

A few observations about the establishment of this pattern:

  1. I had to quit walking where I normally would in pre-pandemic life, which is to say, the big park not too far from my house that is a lovely mile-long “track” shape. I still venture near it sometimes depending on day/time, but mostly it has too many people around it and too many people spikes my anxiety which is the opposite of what the walk is meant to accomplish.
  2. I try to avoid people altogether during my walks. I cross the street, wide step, and basically do whatever to keep to myself when walking because, you know, particles, and COVID, and just, no thanks. I want everyone to be out getting what exercise they need but I don’t want to be around it, please and thank you.
  3. Walking has rebooted my reading habit. Weird, right? But instead of music, I actually like listening to words when I walk, so if I’m not getting caught up on my favorite podcast (which is not actually a podcast, but rather, my friends talking on Marco Polo), I like to listen to audiobooks from the library via the Hoopla or OverDrive apps. It’s awesome to walk and listen and I feel like I’m accomplishing two great things at once. My reading took a big hit when quarantine started and it’s still not back to normal, but I feel like this is getting me there.
  4. I feel so much better in my body. I know that even after four weeks of consistent mileage, there hasn’t been some huge physical/visible shift in my body, but I FEEL so much stronger and put together, which is saying something, especially in these trying, stressful times. I haven’t been on a scale (or at least not seen the numbers on one) since Lincoln was six weeks old, because I’d much rather pay attention to how I’m feeling and this walking routine is perhaps the strongest I’ve felt in ages.

img_7941And while I know a million little things could change at any minute, I’m glad that I’ve made this change and have been able to stick with it for this long. I hope that as the summer unfolds, I can keep it up, which will make it easier to transition it into an inside task later in the year. Because right now it does indeed feel good and finding something that does that every day is a huge benefit and blessing.