It’s OK to be Sad

Do any of you struggle with feeling Big Feelings? I always feel like I need to apologize for being depressed or angry or sad. Like, these emotions are on the bad list and I need to switch over to Happy and Content and Peaceful as soon as possible. 

 

This week has been a bit rough for our family. My kids have been dragging around and have been downright depressed. Do you want to go to the creek to play? No. Do you want to go to the one open playground that I know about? No. Do you want to go bike riding? No. And then they ask, when is school starting? When can we see our friends again?

 

We have talked about school, how it’s going to look different for the kids who are going to the actual school building. Social distancing! Masks! Don’t share things! The little kids who I’m keeping home to homeschool, want to know, again, why they can’t go to the building? And I’m tempted to just go and enroll them and hope for the best. Except that all the reasons I have for homeschooling still exist. I’m sorry sweetie. If school has to shut down for sickness, I don’t want you having to do computer school when you’re only in 2nd grade. But, if everything goes smoothly this semester, I’ll put you in school in January. We just have to wait and see.  

 

And I realize, my kids are mourning. They are mourning their lives being turned upside down. School being different. “I hate the coronavirus!” has become a common refrain. A couple of my kids seem to have just closed in on themselves. Kids who always needed a bit of a push to engage, and now I have nowhere to push them. 

 

And I’m wracking my brain, trying to figure out how to help them, and realizing I’m in the same boat. I’m feeling isolated and scared to make any plans because things might change at any moment. I will have three kids in the school building which means, there is the possibility, every single day, that I will get a phone call saying that one of my kids has been exposed to a positive case of Covid-19 and now we all have to quarantine. Not fun.

 

I think about needing community, and things to look forward to. I contemplate planning musical evenings, and poetry nights, and having people over. And I really want to, but I’m fighting the unease. What if I have a bunch of people over, and then a day later, I find out that one of my kids has been exposed and we have to quarantine, and now I have to call a bunch of people and tell them, hey, you might have been exposed. While I am not overly concerned about getting sick (as my husband says, it’s a virus, you can’t stop a virus, we are all going to get it eventually) I still feel bad about causing alarm to anyone else. And so, I drag my feet about planning gatherings. 

 

And I realize that I am also mourning. I am mourning that I can’t send my kindergartner to school. He’s been looking forward to it for a long time. I have too. Yeah, he’ll do fine homeschooling, but I wanted him to have all those Firsts. First day of school. First time meeting your teacher and class. First time getting to go school with the big kids. I am mourning the fact that everything is uncertain. Yes, we will establish this schedule, but everything might change. You never know. I am mourning the fact that inviting people to my home now feels risky. Yes, we’ll have a cookout this weekend, Lord willing, and we don’t have to quarantine! I am mourning the fact that my daughter won’t be doing ROTC this year. My quirky son won’t be able to try out for the school play. My other son won’t be doing soccer club in the after school program. My second grader won’t get to see if her best friend is in her class again this year. 

 

We are all mourning. And I keep feeling like I need to apologize for not feeling perky and happy. 

 

So, No Apologies! This year has been hard! It’s ok to not have it all together. It’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to mourn. 

 

My mourning is not hopeless. My trust is in the Lord. I know that he will bring good things out of the bad and he will carry us through this time. But, in the meantime, it’s ok to be sad. 

This is What We are Going to Do

Well, our school district rolled out their plan yesterday for how we are going to proceed in the Fall. I will try to simplify it here.

If you aren’t comfortable sending your kids to school you have one week to sign up for online school. They will expect you to commit to that choice for an entire semester. The other option is to send your child to school (starting one week later than normal). Everyone will have daily temperature checks before entering the building and face masks will be required for staff and students. Lots of cleaning will occur. It sounds like each school is going to make their own call on how they do eating and group classes. There is no set in stone plan for dealing with a positive case of Covid 19 in the building. They will take each case as it comes and decide what is appropriate. It does say that a teacher who is required to quarantine will have to take that time from their own personal emergency sick days,  and if they run out of those they will have to take unpaid time off. Doesn’t sound very fair. Also, every student is going to get a computer (and there are instructions on how to get wi-fi if you don’t have it) so that, if students get sent home for quarantining or any other reason, they will be able to continue doing school online. 

 

I’m now going to tell you what we are doing and why. 

 

My two high-schoolers are going to school as normal. They’re old enough to be able to handle wearing masks and if school ends up getting shut down for sickness, and they have to switch to online learning, I still want them to be doing that through their high school, not through me. 

 

My seventh grader has asked to stay home and be homeschooled. He does not want to wear a mask all day, and he doesn’t want to be sitting in front of a computer all day. I said yes, we can homeschool because, first, he’s a laid back kid, easy to teach, and second, he’s a very good student and I am confident that I can keep him on track easily. I plan to teach him the same science subjects and history subjects that they are doing at public school so that he can easily return to public school either in January or for the next school year. 

 

I did not give my 5th grader the option to homeschool. We have already established that we don’t work well together. He also said that he’s not interested in sitting in front of a computer all day and would prefer to be in a classroom. And he has no problem wearing a mask all day. Also, he is a very healthy, active child. 

 

My fourth grader has also asked to go to school. Same reasons. She doesn’t mind the mask and she wants to be in a classroom. She is also a very healthy, active girl. 

 

I did not give my 2nd grader a choice. She is going to stay home and homeschool. She has asthma, her immune system is a lot weaker than my other kids, and she goes into a complete panic any time she has to wear a mask. While online school would be an option, I feel like a 2nd grader should be doing hands-on work, not staring at a screen all day. She is also a good student that works well with me, so I’m not worried about homeschooling her. 

 

I also did not give the kindergartner a choice, he is staying home and being homeschooled. While he could probably handle wearing a mask all day, I worry about the times that he will get sent home and have to do his work on a computer. I do not feel like computer school is appropriate for kindergarten. Again, I want him working with manipulatives, and working on his handwriting and coloring pictures and running around a lot. There is also the fact that I was already a little concerned about how he was going to do in kindergarten. He’s a dreamy kid who gets lost in his own thoughts often, not an ideal characteristic in a classroom. He’s also a smart little kid. We have already done a kindergarten curriculum at home this year because he whizzed through all my preschool stuff. He’s ready to start 1st grade level curriculum and I was afraid that he might get bored in Kindergarten. So, I’m keeping him home. Let me add that he is also a laid back kid who is easy to school. 

 

I’m giving you all this information because I worry about moms feeling pressured both ways. Pressured to homeschool when they don’t want to. Pressured to send kids to school when they don’t want to. Pressured to make a blanket decision for the whole family, when actually, each child needs something different. Be encouraged. This year, there is no right answer for how to school your kids. 

 

I would also encourage you to pray about it. Last night, my brain was whirling and I didn’t think I was going to get any sleep. I finally prayed, God, you love these kids, you know what’s best for them, you also want me to make the right choices for these kids. So I’m going to trust that you will give me a plan. 

 

I woke up this morning and this was the plan that was in my head, to make an individual decision for each child depending on that child’s needs. So, happy decision making to all of you! And let’s have lots of grace for each other, as each person decides what is best for their family!

 

Thoughts on the Upcoming School Year

Let’s talk about this upcoming school year. Our county’s school board is planning on giving us their Plan this coming Wednesday, July 15th. They have already said that their goal is to have students in the building on August 10th. I have quizzed my public school teacher friends, and they are all as equally in the dark as I am as to how this next year will proceed. Which seems pretty crazy to me. You would think that if teachers were about to be asked to teach a completely different way than normal, they would be given lots of time to prepare. Apparently not. 

 

We HAVE been notified that all of the children in Knox County will be given a computer. Which is great except, I don’t particularly want my kindergarten and second grader to be handed a computer. Sure, I would like them to start learning the basics of computer use, but I don’t want them to be doing their school work on a computer on a regular basis. I want them using manipulatives, and hands-on items, and writing with big thick pencils and crayons and turning pages on books. Not clicking and typing. 

 

I have had more than one teacher tell me that I should probably homeschool. If not all the kids, at least the youngest. That is also alarming. I have NEVER had a public school teacher advise me to homeschool. Things are definitely upside down. 

 

While I don’t want to homeschool, it is a viable option for me. I homeschooled for twelve years. I kept most of my curriculum. If I suddenly chose to homeschool all my children right now, I would have to buy very few books to do it. Even for high school, which I’ve never taught at home, I have talked to friends, and they have curriculum ready to lend me if I need it. I also have a home school umbrella school handily at my church and the lady who runs it is a friend of mine. I’ve already consulted her on how easy it would be to switch mid-year to homeschooling, if public school is a flop, and she has assured me that it’s very doable. In other words, I can very easily homeschool if I have to. Let’s also throw in the fact that I am a stay-at-home mom and my only plans for this next year was to take care of my three year old at home and help my children get to and from school and take care of them after school. There will be very little hardship on our family if I have to homeschool.

 

This is NOT true for a large percentage of people I know. Single parents. Dual income families. Parents whose children have special needs. Parents whose kids need extra remedial help. Low income families who can’t afford the extra cost of purchasing homeschooling material or the fees for signing up under an umbrella school. Homeschooling is not a viable option for these people. 

 

Why do I need to homeschool? School is going to be open after all, whether it’s in-building, hybrid, or completely online. Well, here is my big question. What is going to happen when (not if) a child or a teacher in a classroom tests positive for Covid-19? Will the entire class be sent home for two weeks of quarantine? And if one child is sent home to quarantine for two weeks, what about the rest of my family? Will we all have to quarantine? What about my husband? Will he need to stop working for two weeks as well? If that is the case, I can foresee our family, which will have seven school age children this year, spread through three different school buildings, spending most of the year in quarantine. 

 

Ok, so doing school completely online is also going to be an option in our county. That might work for my older children. But, a teacher just explained to me yesterday that teachers are trained for classroom teaching. Not at-home school. For younger children, especially, trying to do regular classroom work on a computer is not going to be an effective way of learning. 

 

What I see happening this coming year is the gap between the Haves and the Have-nots becoming significantly wider. In the end, families who have resources will make the sacrifices necessary to make sure that their children get an education, no matter how creative or ingenious they have to get. And families who don’t have resources will just have to take whatever public school can offer. And right now public school has so many hurdles to jump over, (through no fault of their own) that they are simply not going to be able to offer the quality of education that we used to getting from them. 

 

My heart goes out to public school teachers right now. They are in an impossible situation. Please remember this in the coming weeks as your public schools roll out their plans for the coming year. Turning our anger and frustration on the teachers is just ridiculous. And really, I don’t know who it’s appropriate to turn our anger on. Does turning our anger on faceless School Boards and Governors and Secretaries and Presidents help us? 

 

If we turn that anger towards seeking change, all of these people were elected after all, we can certainly elect new people, then the anger is doing something good. But if we turn that anger simply into moaning and complaining and slandering, we have accomplished nothing. 

 

This is also the time for all the HAVES to step up and see what they can do for the HAVE NOTS.  Get creative. If you don’t personally know any HAVE NOTS then contact your school, ask if there is anything tangible you can do to help families in need concerning the upcoming school year. 

 

What comes to my mind is that I have three neighbors whose children play with mine. If we end up having to school at home, I could easily walk over to their houses and offer to babysit their kids during the school day if they need to work. Or at least be an adult directly on call, if they choose to leave their children home alone. That is just what comes to mind in the first five minutes of thinking about it. I’m pretty sure we could each find at least one thing we could do to help ease someone else’s load. 

 

And if we can turn this chaos of trying to do school during a pandemic, into a time of reaching out to help others, then in the end we are succeeding, no matter what happens. 

Love in a Bag of Socks

Do you ever feel like the whole universe is against you, and everything that can go wrong is going wrong, and WHY ME?? And all that? And then, there is just this moment right in the middle when you suddenly realize that God is still in control and He still loves you, and it’s going to be ok.

 

My story begins with socks. Let’s talk about socks. 

 

Yesterday, Monday morning, as I’m trying to herd a bunch of kids out the door to school, the recurring theme I’m hearing from each child walking down the steps is, I’M OUT OF SOCKS!! I NEED SOCKS!! 

 

Oh no. I forgot to do laundry this Saturday and it sounds like the kids aren’t going to make it to my next laundry day on Tuesday. I direct all the kids to go hunt out my Odd Sock Basket and just find anything that will fit. And if they find some that are kind of the same color or style, that would be great. I mentally add to my TO DO list, wash socks tonight. Which kind of makes me shudder cause that means I will need to go and gather laundry from all the bedrooms upstairs and try and find socks and it’s going to be complicated. Also complicated is the fact that it is Monday, the one day I go to a homeschooling co-op and teach piano lessons and my little boys attend preschool. Andy and I are also supposed to meet some friends of ours at a restaurant this evening. Hmm. Sock washing is not going to be an easy task. 

 

The day is busy. I finish at co-op and then take my tired little boys to the eyeglass place to pick up some replacement glasses we’d ordered. While I’m at the eyeglass place I get a call from the school asking me to come for an emergency meeting. I load up my boys who are starting to get fussy now and we rush over to the school. Have the meeting, during which my three year old loses it completely and goes into full-meltdown mode. We quickly finish the meeting then I have to run out to the car with the screaming three year old and the four year old so we can get in the car and quickly get into the end of the car line to pick up the kids. Three year old has gone insane by this time and I am ignoring all looks from other parents while I bodily carry him to the car while he makes as much noise as possible. I am stepping off the curb and somehow mess it up completely and turn my ankle, almost dropping the screaming child. I am now standing there gasping in pain, trying not to swear too loudly, three year old is still screaming and I don’t know how I’m going to walk the rest of the way to the car. 

 

A teacher who was getting into her car witnesses the whole thing and she gets out of her car and grabs hold of the screaming child and helps me walk him to the car while I limp along. By the time I get to the car, the initial pain has worn off, and I can move my ankle around. Ok. This is going to be alright. I get in the car, buckle the writhing child (I don’t know what happened, I have never had this particular child meltdown in such a spectacular manner), and drive over to pick up my kids. 

 

The next couple hours are filled with talking to kids, dealing with some annoying mail, and trying to get supper cooked so I can feed the kids and go out with my husband. While I’m cooking supper I suddenly realize that I never washed the stupid socks. I ponder how expensive it would be to just go to the store and buy new socks. It seems like it might be the only solution. Ok, I don’t have time to think about this problem. I continue to limp along while I get the meal served. My ankle feels sore, but not enough to slow me down. 

 

We run out the door, just making it to the restaurant in time. I limp carefully to our booth, the ankle is noticeable, but still not bad. 

 

And then suddenly, it’s bad. I’m just sitting there quietly in my seat and my ankle announces it’s presence, loud and clear. I AM HERE, I AM HERE, I AM HERE. 

 

I shift in my seat, trying to find a better position. Nothing seems to be working. We chat and order our food. My face is starting to look strained, my husband asks what’s wrong. I whisper that my ankle is hurting. He lets me put my foot up in his lap. It doesn’t help. 

 

As the evening progresses, my pain level goes from a 2 to a full blown 10. We cut the evening short and my husband and the husband of the other couple help me hobble out of the restaurant. By now I am employing my lamaze-breathing methods to deal with the pain. I can’t wait to just get home and put my foot up with some ice. 

 

Unfortunately, elevating, icing, and dosing up with a bunch of ibuprofen does nothing to ease the pain. I’m now crying. 

 

You have to understand, I have an extremely high tolerance for pain. This is off the charts. 

 

My husband finally says, that’s it, I’m taking you to the hospital. And the whole time, I’m thinking, Why me? I have so much to do. I cannot afford to be out of commission. Everyone is depending on me. And I still haven’t washed the socks. And now I can’t even go to the store to buy socks. And all the kids will be going to school tomorrow sock-less. 

 

We pull up to the hospital and Andy gets out to find a wheelchair. He stops and I hear him open the trunk of the car. The trunk opens and closes and then he walks over to my door, opens the door and dumps a bag in my lap, then heads off again. I look at the bag, puzzled, and open it up. 

 

It’s full of socks. Kids’ socks. Different sizes. And I remember about a month ago, my husband telling me there was a bag of socks in his car, he didn’t know where they came from, did I want them? And I said yes, but never followed through and they had just been sitting in his car. 

 

I burst into tears. This time just because I’m feeling overwhelmed with love. 

 

It’s ok. God’s got this. He sees me. He knows. It’s love in a bag of socks. 

 

(P.S. Ankle isn’t broken, just a bad sprain, and I got a boot to help me hobble around.)

 

Morning People

Morning People. Ugh. I am not a Morning People. My husband is a Morning People. Ugh. My alarm goes off at 6:45. That gives me 15 minutes to get out of bed, get dressed and lay out breakfast for the kids. My husband is usually leaving the house about the time I get up. He walks up to me, all chirpy. His eyes are wide open, he’s grinning. He gives me a big enthusiastic hug. I passively stand there. Raising my arms feels like a bit too much work at this time of day. My eyes are barely squinted open. He laughs and makes some comment about opening my eyes up. I grunt. Barely murmur the words..Love you..and send him on his joyful way.

I used to think that I was a Morning People. When I was a young teen I would habitually wake up early to exercise or practice piano before going to school. I would read my bible and eat my breakfast and have a leisurely morning. Then college came and this thing called sleep deprivation. I remember coming home for Christmas break when I was in college. I would sleep in till noon every day. Of course it helped that we were in Alaska and the sun wasn’t getting up till after 11 am. I think that is some of the best sleep I ever got. I still remember it fondly.

Sleep deprivation has become a way of life. For the past 18 plus years, I have been pregnant or nursing a baby or had toddlers climbing into my bed. I can honestly say that I haven’t had a full, uninterrupted night’s sleep in 18 years. Of course, my husband really hasn’t either, but he still manages to be chirpy in the morning. So maybe I can’t use that as an excuse. Hmm.

Every morning I wake my kids up at 7, they get dressed, brush hair, put on shoes, come down and eat a quick breakfast and then we’re out the door at 7:15. Five kids going to school and often the baby and toddler ride along with us if they’re awake. I go to the elementary school and then the middle school. The middleschooler always rides up front. This suits me fine. The middleschooler has the same opinion of mornings that I do. We go over our Bible memory verses in the car, I pray for my kids, and the rest of the car ride is silent. Ok, my two little girls can be chirpy in the morning, but they sit further back in the van and I don’t have to hear them. My highschoolers walk to school. One time though I had to give my oldest son a ride to school. I can’t remember why, sprained ankle? Broken bone? I just remember that for a short time I had him sitting up in the front seat when we drove to school. He takes after his father. He likes to talk in the morning. Loud, enthusiastic talking. Telling me all about some show or movie that he really likes. And I’m just sitting there driving thinking…Stop, stop. Be quiet. Please stop talking. It is too early to be talking. Stop. Why???

I am fortunate that I am a stay at home mom. There is no pressure to be fully functional by 7am or 8am, or even 9am if it was a particularly rough night. I come home after dropping the kids off and sit on the couch with my two little ones. I zone out. I don’t do caffeine. I’ve never liked the thought of being addicted to any type of substance and so I’ve never developed a hot beverage habit. So, I just wait till my body finally says, Ok, we’re awake now. Let’s get on with the day.

Little kids, in general, are Morning People. Saturday morning they come bouncing into my room at 7am. What’s for breakfast Mom?? Me: hmmph? They climb up on the bed, hit me in the head with a book..Will you read this to me Mom??? Me: (barely whispering) Go away. Mom! Mom! Watch this! They do a somersault on the bed, landing on my legs. Me: AAAGHH!!! GO PLAY SOMEWHERE ELSE!! They finally run off to make noise in a different room. My husband climbs out of bed, says in a loud cheery voice, Well, I think I’m going to go work on some projects right now. Me: (thinking to myself, IT’S SATURDAY!! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!) covers head with pillow and groans.

I am hopeful that one day my children will all sleep through the night and then maybe I’ll start sleeping through the night, and then maybe, I’ll just wake up early because I’m well-rested. And I’ll be cheerful and have lots of energy. We’ll see. I’m not holding my breath.