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):

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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!

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.

 

 

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).

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Get Up Gone Wrong

OK, that’s not entirely true. Getting up early hasn’t gone totally wrong for me since I last wrote, but it’s been over a week and a honesty/reality check is due.

Getting up at 5:00A is hard. Apparently for me it is also not possible. Not once since my last post did I actually get up for my alarm set at that time.

I told you  – this is honesty.

I did try, however, but I had some extra rough nights there at the start and it was the weekend which meant it was waaaaay too easy to say I didn’t HAVE to get up at the pre-crack of dawn, so why? Why bother if I could snooze and make up for some of the tosses and turns?

So after a couple few days of that, the reality check came and I said goodbye to the 5A goal. I’m not saying I’ll never get there, but in the dead of February, it’s just not happening. 5:45 seemed like a better compromise because it gave me at least an hour before the rest of the house is allowed to get up (several of my children are natural early risers which is why we have such strict bedtime rules around here for them), which seemed sufficient.

Thankfully that one I could do, at least for the majority of last week.

I got up, I worked out, I showered, and started breakfast/coffee. All in all, a good routine that was feeling good, too. It still didn’t result in instant wholesome sleep all night, but it felt like the start to a good habit.

Then Friday came. My kids had the day off from school and we had the strangest schedule ever, followed by a Valentine’s date night in which both B and I forgot to eat before going to a music performance (we fed the children, I promise), which was fantastic, so that plus the two glasses of wine on said empty stomach (I rarely drink any more) plus eating supper when we got home at 10 made for an absolute FAIL of sleep that night.

It was ugly.

And you can bet I turned off that dang 5:45A alarm all together because, just, NO.

*sigh* One step forward. Two staggers back.

And actually, it’s mid-week of Week 2 and I am still staggering a bit. I got up early Monday morning but then the last two days it felt better to snooze than get up and work out and even though the alarm goes off, I’m pretty sure it’s cheating if I’m staying in bed more mornings than I’m getting my butt out of it.

I suppose this means my new 30 days starts now. I realize new habits sometimes take time, which is why I’m sharing any of this in the first place. I want to establish a new, better, healthier routine for my body, but clearly doing so isn’t going to happen overnight. Perhaps not even a fortnight or two. But trying again is worth it and so I shall.

More updates to come soon – hopefully with a few more steps forward than this attempt produced. img_6836

Early Riser

Since the sleep reset, I’ve been giving myself some time to process and test the effectiveness of the effort. Obviously the hope had been that it would kick that mid-to-early morning waking habit that I seem to have fallen into in my post-nursing-baby-life + home-renovation-stress-bomb of the last year and change, but unfortunately change is not what I found.

Not even with a little mild, dual release sleep aid am I able to consistently sleep through the whole of any night. And beyond the reset and the meds, this is not without really trying. For one, I have given up any middle-of-the-night reading which is something I used to do when frustrated with not sleeping: turn the light back on and read until my eyes would burn and hope that would be enough to turn off my spinning brain, too. NO MORE. For another (TMI warning), I’ve somehow managed to Jedi Mind Trick my bladder into realizing that even after having had five vaginal deliveries, I really don’t need to pee in the middle of every night. Kudos to my friend A for suggesting this and thank goodness she was right.

So again, here I am, trying to break some bad habits in hopes of helping my sleep pattern, and even though some components are on track, the end goal just isn’t there yet.

When you take all of the ups, downs, experiments, trials, and errors of this months-long process of trying to help sleep in hopes of helping the still-never explained abdominal pain and add it to the chaos of this last week, both internally with our schedule and externally with the world (I know some of you have to be feeling that also), Friday afternoon hit me like ton of emotional bricks. I was just DONE. I sent this pic to a group of girlfriends not because I’m crazy but because I knew it was a safe place in which to say, “Holy Hannah, I am struggling.”

And clearly sleep is still one of the struggles. img_6731

But, as we know, from struggle comes one idea and then the next of what to do or what to try and since everything thus far hasn’t landed me at the desired place, I am indeed on to the next. And I am sharing it with you here because: A) processing and B) accountability.

Since my brain seems so damned determined to be awake at 5A, I’m going to give myself 30 days of just getting the hell up then (clearly the number of grumbly swears here indicate that I’m not totally thrilled with the plan but you know what? It’s only crazy if it doesn’t work and I am willing to try (another) potentially crazy fix in case it does). I plan to work out, eat breakfast, have my coffee, and just generally enjoy the quiet each morning before my (not quiet) crew gets going, and maybe, just maybe, my brain and my sleep will finally feel in alignment with one another.

If you see me looking a little dazed and confused in the coming days, you’ll know why. If you’re an early riser, let me know how you spend/enjoy your time at the start of each day. And if you’re wondering how it’s going, feel free to ask. I’m sure I’ll be updating along the way and for sure at the end of the 30 days because, why not, right? This is the journey back to self after 10+ years of pregnancy and nursing and if reclaiming sleep requires setting a new alarm for a month, then so be it. On the off chance of it working and/or being enjoyable, I’m down to get up. Really, really freaking early.

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Reset

I’m not sure how wise it is to pull a first ever all-nighter at age 37 5/6 (or at least the first one in 20 years), but in the hopes of helping correct my sleep cycle, I am currently going on Hour 32 of NO SLEEP.

Yes, that’s right. I have been up since roughly 6A on Thursday and it is now after 1:30P on Friday. And yes, I have been up that whole time. To help my sleep.

Think I sound crazy? Well, I’m sure I am a little crazy sounding today because my brain is fried from lack of sleep, excess of coffee, and hope upon hope that this radical move makes a difference in my sleep pattern.

And no, I didn’t dream this up on my own.

This was actually a legit suggestion made to me by one of my health providers to try to break my mid-early-morning wake-up habit and I’m so sick of the constant waking that I decided to give it a try.

But here’s where I do confess to being crazy: I actually tried this last week on Friday night and failed miserably (I made it to somewhere between 2-3A and then woke up to the sound of the coffee maker beeping at 6A). I was so disappointed that my try didn’t work and really just left me more tired then ever, which was so not the point. Honestly, I can’t believe I even considered a second attempt, but yesterday afternoon I got a wild hair for Round Two and decided to give it my best (and last) effort but with actual planning this time.

Last week I thought I would just read all night because I tend to do that when I’m not supposed to, but it was super cold and my bed was super cozy and yep – dozing before coffee could come to my rescue was the end result of that.

Last night I made an entire list of activities to occupy the hours of 11-6 and believe it or not, I stayed up and I didn’t even get to everything on my list. To give you a sample of what I did with my “bonus” nocturnal time, here you go:

  1. Did yoga before midnight for my 30 Days challenge.
  2. Did yoga after midnight for the next day of my 30 Days challenge.
  3. Watched the live-action version of Aladdin while folding laundry. Why? Because I could.
  4. Worked on a Shutterfly family album.
  5. Watched Grey’s. I will love that show until it dies.
  6. Ate sushi at approximately 2A. Not joking.
  7. Drank a bunch of water.
  8. Mended holes in three pairs of pants for HD, including his snow pants.
  9. Painted my toes.

Clearly you can see it was a wild and crazy night. BUT, all of that busy work (& snacks/beverages) kept me awake until the coffee maker went off, so it was indeed a success.

img_6620Well, I guess I don’t know that yet. It will depend on how my sleep goes tonight and the rest of the weekend. The hope is that this reset will be just enough to jolt my system out of old, bad habits. Maybe one time trying this isn’t enough to do that. And if that’s the case, peace out; I cannot do this a third or fourth time. I am tired as all get out today and I’m counting down the minutes until bedtime worse than normal, so no – either this is it or it’s not. Whatever. At least now I can say I tried to do to the actual suggestion to the best of my ability, and besides brain fog, I’m not any worse off in the long run than I was 24 hours ago when I decided to do this. Again.