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.

Today was a Good Day

Just like any blog post right now, it feels a little strange to document something with that title, as if it were a totally rare occurrence, except that lately, it sort of feels like a full day of a good day really really has been few and far between for us. I actually can’t put my finger on what would have been the last one during or even before Quarantine Life started that could be given the same title. Instead we’ve been clinging to what my therapist calls “Glimmer Moments” – little bits and pieces of good that are always mixed in, even on the hardest and longest of days.

But today was indeed a Good Day.

The weather was perfect – warm sun, cool breeze, big puffy clouds floating across the sky.  (I mean, it IS April 25th, so….)

The agenda was different than normal but still turned out OK.

img_7572Ben spent the whole morning on a Zoom meeting for his statewide education association but was able to just listen to the content and didn’t have to be parked in a chair in front of the computer for the whole thing. During that time the kids and I hung out, working on Lego building and book reading to the littlest two

(we’ve been slacking on keeping track of their 1,000 books before Kindergarten lists, so we’re trying to start that up again), and I even managed to get the dishes done which is always nice when it happens before evening time.

After lunch the baby went down for a nap and Ben took the Bigs for a (socially distanced, don’t worry) excursion while I stayed to work on some projects I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t gotten to yet. One was simply putting the handwritten lyrics to a favorite song in a frame, but the other was a COVID-specific project that we can use as a keepsake for this crazy and uncertain time (because even though we don’t know when, we’re still hanging on to hope that life will return to normal, which will make this a reminder of The During once we finally get to be in The After). It felt so good to sit and work on these things and I was reminded of how meditative creating can be.

From there we headed out to Prairie Loft for our second Exploration Reservation (local and local-ish friends, you should really check it out – such a fantastic way to spend up to two hours out in nature) of the month and once again, we loved it and it nourished our souls.

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This time we went straight for the downed trees so the kids could climb, but then we quickly moved on to walking a ton of ground that we didn’t set foot on last time. We img_2953found a bunch more trees to investigate (including some insanely thorned ones that just blew my mind, so much so that I forgot to get a picture of them), and the kids had a blast getting up, in, and on every one they could. Even Mama got in on the in-tree fun!

As we walked through the grass, keeping an eye out for little trees, pokey weeds, holes, and snakes, we got a chance to talk and question and just be. Again, I think we’ve realized that it is so soul-filling to be able to be together by ourselves but away from our house, and we are so lucky to have this so close to home.

Along the way, we took a ton of pictures and I took some quick notes of memorable quotes because even before the kids said it, I was already thinking, this is SUCH a great day. And what a gift it is to have one of those as we continue to chug along in this great unknown.

“We can find a way – we’re Welsches!”

“We an outdoor exploring family!”

“I like walking with you.”

“I’m having one of those emotional moments like you see on reality television!” (LOL! That one was maybe the best!)

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We ended our time playing in their “yard” area and hunting for four-leaf clovers, which HD managed to find lickety-split. RL and LT found a four and five, too, so seriously – we were on a roll!

From here it will be tacos for supper, bath and bedtime for the kids, some Hard Booch for the parentals, and then a continuation of our Parks and Recreation marathon because just like creating and getting away, Leslie Knope is one of the best things for my heart and soul these days.

Sending you all lots of love and wishes for glimmer moments, and hopefully even a Good Day, while you’re at it.

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In the Mess

Another week, another post. That’s about all I’ve got in me these days, it seems, but it still feels worth doing because this life is different than anything else we’ve done before, and I really need to document it for my own memory and understanding.

Understanding feels in short supply these days. In our country, in our state, in our community, and yes, even in our home. There’s not much I can do about those first three levels of that even though it breaks my heart and my spirit to see the lack of both compassion and logic in the way some people are approaching this virus and this crisis. Because trust, we are all in crisis to some extent and there are many out there who are in extreme and dangerous levels of insecurity (basic needs met) and who are being put at risk right now. And it is really starting to feel like we are going to be at this for a very, very long time if people don’t start working together (while staying separate).

The lack of understanding within my own four walls? Well, I’ll be honest and admit that I’m at a bit of loss there, too. I’ve never been able to find a magic, this-works-every-time parenting book before quarantine life, so I get it that we are all flying by the seat of our pants right now, but that doesn’t make the day-after-day of this any easier.

There’s a LOT of BIG emotions flying around our family. At one point this morning at least three, if not more, children were in full meltdown mode at the same time and while that’s not just limited to quarantine life, if feels like it’s happening more and more as this drags on and on and we just aren’t doing a good enough job to get the needs of our little people met in such a way that keeps the ship a little more steady and on course. And that’s true for ourselves as parents, too. Everything feels just a little extra shaky at all times and I wish I knew what the answer was for each of my people to make this better or easier (and that I could deliver on providing it).

Look, I get that it is temporary and that many others feel the same, but it feels necessary to reiterate that This. Is. Hard. For us, it is doing this stay-at-home life with five children under the age of 11 who fight and bicker all the time and the utter lack of time and space in which to just chill and be (for basically all of us) that is wearing us down right now. As the weather improves that will get better but it’s not like I can just send the kids out to play and expect them to all be fine without supervision and refereeing. Literally every moment of the waking hours (and too many of the night-time, too) is devoted to keeping the peace, providing guidance, and parenting (and working and still being a person going through collective trauma), so it’s no wonder that I feel like I’m treading water and just don’t understand life right now.  (Side note: this post is being written during nap/screen time while Ben mows and I’m just praying that the kids are doing what they need to be doing while I take these minutes to unload my brain a bit).

What I do understand, after five weeks of this crap, is that I need my people. I’m not an extrovert by any means, but goodness graciousness, I need MY people and I cannot wait for this to end so we can be together in peace and comfort again. Thankfully I’m still able to see their faces and hear their voices through video messaging and some driveway deliveries of goodies and care packages, but what I crave right now is time to pull up a seat together where we can share the same air, laugh and cry, and just be together. I miss that very much.

I also need MY space. That’s not really a new revelation either, but I think I will take for granted very little when we can finally return to normal routines, time together, and time alone that isn’t mandated/necessary/critical.

It’s hard to know how to end this post, just like it’s hard to know when and how we will come out of this. Right now we are in the struggle, the fear, and the mess of it all. I know there will be another side of it all, but the when and the how of what it will all become? I’m very curious and anxious to see what that shall be. In the meantime, I’ll leave you this: a facial expression I’m sure he learned from me but that won’t catch up to him on the forehead wrinkle front for a couple decades. 😉 img_7524

An Unusual Easter

Pretty sure it is safe to say that all life is unusual these days, but for the sake of remembering, it still feels worth writing about as we continue to move through this COVID-19 quarantine existence.

HD counted on the calendar this morning and from what we can tell, we’re on day 34 of Life Since We Realized This Was Serious which is a ridiculous title for something, but mid-March is when our switch flipped and here we are, over a month later, still chugging along and doing what we can to stay home and stay away and stay safe.

Part of what we’re learning to do is celebrate without actually being around others. We got good practice of that on my birthday and have been able to reciprocate for a few others on their special (but weird) corona-birthdays. This last weekend, though, brought us Easter and that. was. weird.

img_7423Easter is not normally a time we go all out or crazy, but like a lot of folks, we like us a good Easter Egg Hunt, getting a little extra fancy for Sunday service, and seeing friends and family for meals, play time, and togetherness. Thanks to the virus this year plus the ickiest weather possible, literally none of that happened. The kids did get Easter baskets (which the EB decided to stuff with all the extra stay-at-home materials she acquired in the early days of all this), though, so at least that felt normal-ish, albeit a bit overboard.

But honestly, Sunday in south-central NE was a mess. We had ice, we had a dusting of snow, and we had WIND that effed with our power on and off (again, literally) throughout the day. I felt terrible for the folks responsible for going out into that sh!t weather to restore our lights and heat, but it also felt like a whole new level of suck to be stuck in our house without any power for an extended time Sunday morning (I know; my privilege is clear).

Even though power technically came back on in time to get dinner in the oven, I wasn’t sure the wind would be so kind as to leave it on, so we did a more typical for us Sunday dinner (seriously; when we go to Sunday School and service, there is very little time for cooking afterwards before we move on to the rest of our day) of cheese, crackers, and fruit. We also listened to the live stream of church while doing a puzzle and the kids hung out nearby, but for whatever reason, my heart felt a lot bit off over the course of the day. I totally agree with the message that Easter itself is not at all about the plastic eggs or new dresses and really is still possible when away from our people, but still – Sunday was an up and down day, as many seem to be during this indefinite experience.

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Even though the house rattled all day long, power stayed on long enough to make a nice meal for supper. Thank goodness we eat early like 85 yr-olds, though, because right around 6p, the occasionally blinking lights turned into on again, off again, (and again and and again and AGAIN) lights, just as we were trying to start normal wind-down bedtime routines, sending all of us into a bit of a tizzy (including my dishwasher and dryer that I had to keep resetting and restarting each time).

Eventually we got everyone and their white noise/clocks settled and eventually the power stayed on for good, and B and I got to have a bit of post-holiday downtime. We’ve taken to watching (for the first time ever) Parks and Recreation on Netflix because my head and heart basically can’t handle anything heavy or serious right now (because every day and real life feel too heavy and serious these days to have that also be our “entertainment”). And just like my writing here has dropped, so too has my reading. As in, I am struggling to read at all, much less finish things and if you know me at all, you know that’s a huge indicator that all is not right in our world for that to be true. The desire for escapism is there but actually attaining it? Not happening beyond the few smiles and laughs Leslie Knope provides me after the kids go to bed each night.

And that’s where we are: sort of finding a rhythm and routine but also knowing that the unknown is lingering hardcore right now and probably will be for a long, long time to come. Is this our last holiday stuck at home? Goodness I hope so, but I guess none of us can say when words like “normal” “typical” or “usual” will return to our mouths and our schedules, much less our brains and our bodies.

 

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.