I Love You, But…

Oh, my heart. My Bigs are missing school hard these days.

Case in points:

  1. HD’s class does a weekly Zoom which his teacher handles really nicely in terms of img_7299giving them a theme (scavenger hunt, talent show, etc.) and managing the chaos of a dozen-ish squirrelly 10-yr-olds on computers. My child is so excited for each one that he starts prepping his wardrobe and location a solid 30 minutes in advance and is then logged in and ready to go at least 10 minutes early each time. He told me today that he misses going to school because  it “was his entertainment” which is evident in how much anticipation and excitement go into prepping for these weekly hour-long meetings. Hands down, he wishes they could be every night.
  2. RL has had very little interaction online with kids her age and she’s hurting. This is the kid who loves, loves, LOVES school and her img_7333friends and playing games at recess and it is so hard for her to be away from those things. Yes, she’s got her siblings and has had some FaceTime with her Bestie (thank goodness!), but tonight before bed I told her, “I love you, Raegan.” and she responded with, “I love you, but…” and then promptly burst into tears because she just wants to see her people in real life and when is this going to end and when can we go places again and she just doesn’t want to do it anymore, and again – oh. my. heart. She’s feeling a lot of feels right now and a lot of them are the sticky and icky ones and it’s just so hard to watch her struggle in these ways and know that there’s absolutely no way I can fix it or speed up the process. I have promised all the play dates possible when this is over, but of course we have no freaking clue when that might be, so that’s not really helping right now.
  3. LT has struggled the most with doing the packets from school. He too misses his buddies and his super sweet teacher and I think a lot of his anger at the homework comes from not quite being able to read yet and not even making it through a full year of full day school, so the idea of working independently while Dad and I help the other kids here and there just freaks him the frick out. Quarantine School freaks us the frick out, too, Buddy; I promise. We’ve found some ways around this by having him do some worksheets with his BFF over video chat, but that’s a hands-on process for both families, too, and clearly can’t happen every day, so a lot of days are becoming “sure, go ride your bike and play outside time” instead of trying to force the packets time. We keep trying and we keep celebrating any time he does willingly participate with a school-related activity (including the fact that he had to adjust to doing weekly Zoom Speech with a new speech therapist) but this all feels extra hard and challenging, again mostly on the feels front. The fact that he was smiling while playing this Speech Game with Truman was a huge win for this week!

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Basically all I’m saying here is that I’m heartbroken for the way the school year ended suddenly and without closure. It sucks that my kids can’t have their amazing teachers, classmates, and social outlets. As much as we know it is necessary and for the greater good, none of this feels right right now. Of course we’re still having some fun and making good memories (Hello, Star Wars Marathons with Mama and the Big 3!) but we’re also acknowledging that we love each other but this is still really, really hard.

Choosing Relationship

Week Four, folks. Week. Four. How did we get here already and are we sure it hasn’t already been four months and not just four weeks? I don’t remember a time when time has been more slippery than it is now; do you?

For us, Week Three was hard. Lots of big emotions. Lots of hiccups and challenges at finding (and failing) at a routine and of course with realizing that in terms of school, this really is how it is going to be for the rest of the academic calendar. Even with seeing that coming from a mile away and being relieved by that call, we all felt it in our souls and were saddened by it.

Trust me when I say, I acknowledge and give thanks for the privileges and comforts my family has right now. That being said, this is still an extreme challenge, and since literally none of us know how to do this current crazy life, it is still so, so hard, and there are moments all day long that make me question if we are doing the right thing.

Mostly that applies to our kids, their education, and their well-being.

We are definitely still trying when it comes to their school packets, we are. We appreciate the effort their teachers are putting in there and we want to try to keep some sort of retention/”school” going for next month and a half. But I’ll be honest and admit that my relationship with my children means far more to me than completing worksheets or going on websites/virtual tours/etc. right now.

I feel far more worried about damaging their own little stressed and confused, sad and disappointed hearts and minds than I do about science, math, or social studies right now. Yes, we will keep trying, but also yes, we are going to give ourselves as much grace, outdoor time, board games, and even movie marathons as we need (together and separate) to get through this never before seen challenge.

Part of what I’m missing most right now, though, besides my old anxiety levels, is having easier access to my support system – my family and friends that have always been around for past moments of chaos and crisis. But now we’re all in chaos and crisis simultaneously and we literally cannot and should not be doing it physically together which sucks so very much.

And bless it, as much as I don’t know where I’d be without technology these days and all the ways to video message, sometimes the virtual interactions leave me more depleted than a real-life social gathering because the being together without being together is heart-hurting. I don’t want to give them up but they are also a stark reminder, each time, of what we can’t actually have right now.

I’m still choosing relationship, in whatever form it can come with both my roof-sharers and allll the people I miss in real life right now, but I’m also having to process a lot of big feels after doing so, which I guess is just part of going through a collective mess of indefinite uncertainty. I hope and pray it ends as soon as possible, just like I hope and pray for the strength of all relationships – personal, professional, familial – that are being tested right now.

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!

Literal FIELD Trip

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

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

The van was dead in the garage.

Say what?!

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

But seriously – CRAP!

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

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

Way to be flexible, Welschies! Literal and figurative!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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