Spring Board

In a lovely turn of events, Saturdays are now our quiet days, our days to do nothing (or everything depending on how you look at it) and will be for the next five weeks as tomorrow marks the start of Spring Sports in high gear for our fam. Miss Raegan’s already been at it for a few weeks with her running program, Girls on the Run, and the two biggest boys started with flag football practices this past week, but starting tomorrow our weeks will be full of all of that plus Sunday football games and then weekly practices for the new kid track program that Ben is helping coach here in town, and while we’re at it, why not throw in orchestra rehearsals for HD and Kinder Orientation for TJ, this week too, eh? Because, yep; all that is happening, too.

And this is why this sweatshirt has the best-ever job descriptor of what my life is like as a mama of five busy Littles because chaos coordination is exactly what I attempt to do all the live-long day, and especially now that we’re getting into high levels of activity again with this new season.

To be fair, I often find spring a little overwhelming for these very reasons – all the things happening at all the times takes a lot of organization and planning, not to mention remembering and executing. But this spring has that not-so-little extra bit of anxiety built into it because we’re coming into this level of activity after a year of basically going nowhere and doing nothing and the overwhelm is not just to our calendar but also our senses and energy levels, too.

The good part of this is that Ben and I have both been fortunate enough to receive our vaccinations for COVID-19 in the last month, at least the first dose. He actually had his second just yesterday and I will have mine this coming week, so once we get through two weeks after that, life going back to semi-normal will feel a bit more possible. But there’s still so much to process from everything that is happened in the last year that makes it hard to just dive back in to active, calendar-full life, on multiple levels, which brings me back to these quiet Saturdays.

I need them.

My kids need them.

My husband and my house need them.

We need some time to decompress and be away from all the going and doing because we haven’t quite figured out how to re-enter that again, which I think is OK. Actually, I’m not sure I ever want to go back fully to what life was like before, but with this many kids in our family, even keeping them limited on activities still means we have a ton going on and eventually I am going to have to find a way to navigate that that keeps us all happy and sane. In the case of this year, maintaining that meant saying “no” to soccer for the littlest two because we just needed to keep one day of the week to ourselves while we still could.

I’d like to think that we can still keep quiet days moving forward and we’re doing well to lay that foundation now. I have to believe that the spring board back to the world at large can still leave such space and grace for ourselves and our families. Time to take walks and think. Time to play games both inside and outside. Time to listen to music. Time to unwind and reset for all that is to come (because, again, even with just a little, it all quickly becomes a lot in this house).

Is it wishful thinking to hope we can keep this forever? Yes. I know that. But for this year in particular, this feels like the best strategy possible to keep ourselves in one piece while also putting some feelers back out there for what that semi-return actually looks like for us. I think coordinated chaos plus once-a-week quiet days are a pretty good way to start.

The Full 360/365

As a writer, as a mother, and as an individual, it’s hard for me not to notice and mark milestones. Patterns, too. For example, last year at the end of February, our family had a stomach bug rip through our entire household and unfortunately this week brought us the return of a similar sick fest. This is also the time of year when third quarter ends for Ben and the kids at school and I see my own end of Winter Term/start of Spring Term resulting in an excess of grading (which is super fun in the midst of caring for super sick kids, btw). But the real milestone that’s looming and feeling both heavy but remarkably hopeful is what I consider the anniversary of the start of our COVID-Year.

A year ago today, actually, my kids began their four-day Spring Break weekend and one of my dear friends and I were frantically trying to decide if we should still travel to Denver to attend an author event or not due to COVID-19 news sling-shotting around the country (spoiler alert: we did not). How little we knew then in terms of just how many plans would be cancelled or how long school would be out in the months that followed. How little we knew about the controversies and struggles that would come, much less the number of people who would be diagnosed, get sick and how so many would be lost due to this disease. How time would lose all meaning and make for both the shortest and longest days, weeks, months, and now year of our life. How is it already mid-March again? But also, haven’t we lived 10 years in the last 12 months? If gray hairs and worry lines are any indication, then yes, we have done just that but in the blink of a (tired) eye.

And yet, here we still are. Still marking the days, still doing our best to do our part by not making many plans (and keeping the ones we do make as safe as possible), and still masking up wherever we go. For 365 days, or 360 degrees if you’re following our trip around the sun as one of my friends likes to say, we have been in this and at this. Thankfully, mercifully, and sometimes frustratingly, we are are still here this whole year later happy at least because we have each other even as we mark what the experience and struggles have been for us.

Today, though, our family has a glimmer of hope, a sign of changes to come, as Ben received his first vaccine dose. He’s not the first in our immediate family to get one but we are so thankful his turn arrived. I haven’t been super worried and stressed about him getting this as schools here have found a way to keep open safely with masks and some protocol changes but it is still such a relief that educators are in the initial-ish round of shots in our community.

My hopes for a vaccine are quite different. I don’t meet any of the criteria to get a shot now or anytime soon, so instead I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been doing as we hope and pray the president was right in saying that all Americans who want a shot should be able to get one by the end of May. The thought of being able to go and do more with more confidence this summer than we’ve had at all in the last year is a lovely one, even if that is still months away at this point.

After all, if the last year has established anything, it is that time is a loose concept and we are much stronger and capable of navigating chaos than we ever knew.

Church Away from Church

It’s been ten months since our church has gathered in person in our church building. In that time, the church leadership has been so careful, considerate, and cautious which has been greatly appreciated as we have monitored local COVID-19 numbers and trends. Thankfully the church has also been extremely creative in keeping us connected during this time which has been possible thanks to technology and those who know how to wield such tools well. There have been outdoor services (last summer and fall) in the park, drive-through-town processions while listening to Sunday service on the radio, remote Sunday School lessons recorded and shared on the church’s YouTube page, and, of course, the weekly LiveStream on Facebook.

Since this post is about church, I must be honest and admit that I also have some confessions to make. The first is, although I have listened to/watched many if not most weeks, I have not made my family do much of that. The kids have been pretty consistent with their Sunday School lessons at home, but that credit goes to their dad, not me. When we were doing eSchool to start the year and I was in charge of three kids zooming and such from home every day I absolutely could not entertain the idea of making them do videos on the weekend, too. Thankfully Ben wasn’t as daunted by that idea and he’s continued to keep them engaged with those this whole school year. It helps that he is an actual Sunday School teacher and has even recorded two of the lessons along with some of our Bigs as helpers.

But the LiveStreams? That has been a time for me while the rest of the family does their thing around the house. The one part they consistently catch is the very end when our pastors sing “We are the Church” and as a giant side note: oh my, how all of us love that song and hope very much that that little benediction stays as part of service even when we are someday back in the actual sanctuary on Sundays.

So yes, I’ve been a little selfish with my Sunday mornings because I want to actually hear the message and not be so distracted by wrestling kids at the same time like I would during actual in-person church. This leads me to my second at-home confession: I’m not very good at just sitting and watching the LiveStreams. I blame this in part on the fact that in our 5ish years of attending First Pres, we have always had a bunch of little Littles in tow so, no, church service has never been a calm or still experience for me. I’m holding, shushing, feeding, or taking someone (or multiple someones) to the bathroom all the live-long (Sun)day, so how would I know how to just sit and listen?

At home my inability to just sit has transformed into some productive sessions while I watch/listen to service. I have had my coffee, I have done dishes, I have prepped and cooked meals, I have folded a LOT of laundry, and I have started feeding the kids lunch which is why they so often catch the final prayers and song around 11:30. I even used service to wrap Christmas books in December! But even with all this activity, I am listening and probably hearing even more than I get to when we are there in person.

This morning’s sermon touched on turning away from disconnect and distraction and it struck some cords with me. While I suppose my house-holder duties done during church might look like some icky, distracted multitasking to some, I’ve been quite grateful to have these months of hymns, prayers, announcements, and sermons to keep me company while I do the necessary tasks of caring for my family (even if I don’t let them listen with me) in a prolonged time of stress and loneliness. It makes me feel more connected to my broader community to use my church time to lighten the load of a busy mother (who is, yes, often distracted); it’s like a layer of blessing is added on top of those chores that would otherwise just be, well, chores.

There was another takeaway message from today’s service that charged us with checking in with our church family and to pray for those we would normally sit by on Sundays. I mean, seriously – maybe there is a church out there that doesn’t do voluntary assigned seats, but I have yet to be part of one, and in our current life we are Balcony People all the way where there are lots of wiggly, noisy kids and their tired parents plus some very patient other adults. As chaotic and sweaty as all that is, I miss it. I miss getting time there with the friends, family, and church family who love on and help take care of my not-so-little crew as we navigate Sunday mornings together. And now, as I reflect back on my own Sunday morning routines during the pandemic, I am also curious to know what those same Balcony People (and those who sit down below) have been doing with their Sunday services at home. Perhaps I am not the only one doing two things at once?

All told, I can’t wait to be back in person, as I’m sure all of my church family agrees. Will I miss being able to fold laundry or clean the kitchen at the same time? No, not at all because those tasks are always going to be there. But if we’ve learned anything in the last year it’s that what is is not a given. When we can safely gather again in places and spaces with our people, it is going to be such a welcome gift, one I hope we carry with us in the years to come as we continue to move with love, service, justice, and humility in this world.

Third First Day of Third Grade

Moving and/or starting over in the midst of a school year is something our family has never experienced before, but this year, our kids have had a number of transitions surrounding First Days. For the Big 3, it was eSchool in August, followed by in-person school in October. For Truman it was a new preschool in October. And, unfortunately*, for RL, it is a new classroom for in-person school today. That means she’s started over three times in one year of school (and we’re only halfway through!); even though kids are resilient as all get-out, that’s an awful lot for a little person to process, especially for a little person who asks so little of others but always makes life easier for those around her.

*As to the use of the word “unfortunate”: this is nothing against the teacher RL is joining today. It’s actually the same teacher she had for eLearning which is why this is happening in the first place. The District isn’t offering eLearning to those without a doctor’s note to remain doing so, so her eTeacher needed to return to the in-person classroom and that just happens to be in our kids’ elementary building. So the good thing is, Raegan already knows her and how sweet she is. And of course we understand that the school had to do something in this situation, but trust me when I say, I did not expect our eSchool option to come back and bite us in the butt right before Christmas break like it did when we got this news.

The thought of making Raegan change classrooms again (for the third time in less than six months) was heartbreaking because she worked hard to establish herself and make connections in her in-person class during second quarter. And that was after staying home and quarantined far longer than most, so the social aspect of all this was very upsetting. There were a LOT of tears shed in the last two days before break as all this went down and we tried to figure out just what was happening, and I don’t just mean from her and her friends; I mean me on the phone with the school, too, because if nothing else, my job as a mom is to advocate for my kids whenever and however needed, even if I’m a sobbing mess while doing so. And even when I know it’s not going to change a darn thing.

I was worried break might be a pretty blue two weeks for RL, but she had a really nice time up until the last two days when school was looming and then the quietness/questions started coming. And then this morning, on the actual day of First Day, Take Three, her tummy and her heart hurt and we definitely had tears while trying to get kids ready and out the door.

I did everything I could think of to send her wrapped in love today, from painting her fingernails last night (rock star color for my Rock Star Raegan) to putting Sharpie hearts on her new mask so she’d know which side was face-side (and so I could give her some love each time she put her mask on today), and even some Stress Away essential oil dabbed behind her ears after she got dressed – anything I could do to help her remember that I’d be here at the end of the day to listen to and love on her because she is capable of handling this sucky situation, even if I wish she didn’t have to do so.

The good news is, the day was good (enough). She came home full of stories and (enough) smiles to put my mama heart at ease because I can see that her heart is as at ease (enough), too. (My WoTY is coming in really handy, I see, even with parenting!)

May this please, please be the last First Day she has to have this year!

All the Feels

We called a Family Meeting tonight to share some big news with the Bigs (no, we are not pregnant) and y’all, it did not go like I thought it would.

You see, B and I made the decision a few weeks ago to send the kids back to in-person school for 2nd quarter (I would have been happy to send them then, but we committed to a full first quarter, so on we carried and will do so through next week until Q1 ends) and tonight we finally told them the plan. (Side note: in the weeks since we made this call, our local COVID numbers and stats have not been good and I hate that, but so far it seems that masks are making a world of difference and as long as the schools keep wearing them, hopefully everyone can indeed stay in school. There will be zero outside activities for us; just school, that’s it.).

I thought there would be whooping and hollering. Jumping up and down, even? But that was not the case, at all, actually. Instead there were stunned faces and questioning eyebrows.

Truman was the first to raise a question of concern, as he too gets to return to preschool, just not the PreK we’ve always attended. Instead he’ll be at a public PreK where they’ll be wearing masks, just like all the other classrooms in the district. He asked, with the precision clarity small kids wield so well, “What if I get scared?”

Thankfully I could tell him that I met with his new teacher yesterday and that she seems super nice and that he’ll also get to ride the bus to PreK each day AND eat lunch at school and basically I distracted him with the newness and shininess and bonus features and he seemed to be pretty cool with the plan pretty quickly.

The Middlest says he will miss his teacher and friends a lot, but is so far riding the announcement with the most even keel, which is great; the oldest two, however, have a lot of questions and a lot of feels about all of this which has led to me having a lot of feels tonight, too.

Like LT, they are sad to miss their eTeachers and classmates. But beyond that, they are questioning things like knowing what and how the day-to-day works with masks and spacing out and all that, and I think they are also feeling overwhelmed at the idea of finally getting to be with their people again after seven months without them.

I get that. I really do. The few social distanced times I’ve had with my friends in recent months have each left me with a hang out hang over because my brain is both so happy to see them and also sad as it processes how different life still is these days. But oh goodness, my heart feels for these babies of mine who are a little bit nervous about re-entry. I get that, too.

So we started making lists of questions and plans to FaceTime some friends to ask how things are working. We talked and hugged and cried, especially when they both said that they were going to miss me when they’re at school. I promised to make RL a bracelet she can wear to keep me close when she is away. Goodness, though, talk about tugging on a mama’s heartstrings!

This experience has been the hardest of my parenting life. And yet I’ve also been so grateful for this time with them, to talk to them about COVID and social justice and politics and a million other conversations that wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t home with me day in and day out. As much as I’m craving some peace and quiet around here, I’m going to miss them like crazy. I don’t know how I will think about anything but them in those first few days and weeks that they are back at it.

I am sure the questions will keep coming as will the tears and the excitement and everything in the middle for both them and for me. I’m so glad they had the opportunity to participate in eSchool and I’m also so happy for them to get back to an in-person classroom (and, let’s be real, I’m hoping and praying and crossing all my fingers and all my toes that it stays safe and able to remain open, especially after we’ve waited this long to get there).

So there ya have it, friends. Another day on the roller coaster otherwise known as parenting little Littles in 2020. It just never quite goes like we think it will, but we’re learning the entire time.

Mama Don’t Play

Y’all, it’s a Tuesday AND it is still (unfortunately) 2020, so am I surprised that today has been a bit of A Day? No, not really. But I don’t have enough eggs in the house to make Tuesday Bars, so writing instead it shall be!

We’re in week 85 of eLearning (I don’t really know how long it has been – 7 weeks, probably?) and even though the kids have adapted to it pretty well, I’m still so worn out by it all. The Zoom gremlins come at least once a day for someone in our house, and even though we’ve learned tricks to navigate tech problems (HD is quite the little tech support), it’s really frustrating to hear your name said as “MOOOOOMMMMMM!” 20x a day because someone needs something right this second and there’s a problem or a question or what about this and did the other person get into their Zoom OK and did the laundry get changed to the dryer and where are the snacks and did you drink any water yet today and are you still wearing PJs annnnnd, welcome to 3 minutes in my brain as an eLearning parent. Scattered to say the least!

So yeah. I get it. The Kids are tired of this. I’m tired of this. And, unfortunately, it seems folks in our state are tired of attempting to do the right thing because our numbers are in the top 7 or 8 in the country for rising cases (or at least 10 days ago they were because that’s how far behind most testing is in our area). It feels so hard to make decisions about moving forward with confidence because how do you know what might be OK in the future based on data that’s already outdated when you get it?

Needless to say, some things are strained around here such as patience and politeness, and even though we are just two days into this school week, I have had to tell my girlfriends in messages, “Mama Don’t Play That Way!” for major kid infractions twice this week as well. I won’t throw any particular children under the bus in this post but 1) don’t lie to me about having your schoolwork done and 2) don’t make 50 rude faces at me in response to being redirected and expect no consequences (and no, I’m not addressing the same child for each of those points).

Just one example of the 50 faces coming at me today. I mean, I get it. I really do. But no. NO.

Knock on wood, we’re through the worst of today when it comes to attitudes and I even get to sneak out for a mid-afternoon run here in a bit thanks to my mom, so that’s a sanity saver in and of itself. And speaking of “Mama don’t play,” I’ve taken the movement challenge up a notch and set out to complete 87 miles in 31 days in honor of RBG, after a friend sent me a link for a virtual event over the weekend. I’ve already done 11 and hope to knock out couple few more today. I still get pretty sore and hobble-y after the runs but it feels good to push myself and it is a good way to focus my energy and anxiety, so I’m glad to have that as a side task between now and the election.

You know, there’s often at least a bit of a “so what?” to my posts but today is a Tuesday and also *A* Tuesday, so I’m just going to let it be what it is by documenting it and moving on because that’s what life these days calls for, right?

See it. Acknowledge it. Release it.

Or just keep trying/running/swimming/breathing until you can do so.

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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