It’s Been Rough on the Kids

One of my little kids just came inside and told us that she heard gunshots. THREE SHOTS! REALLY FAST! I looked at my husband, he said, tell the kids to come inside. I called everyone in. They didn’t want to come in. The gunshots were far away! They weren’t close! Yeah, well, what if the person shooting the gun is in a car and he drives this way? Lets, just come inside for a while. They were disappointed, but came in, and within minutes were distracted by some new game they were playing. 

Such is life in our neighborhood.

Tomorrow the kids won’t go to school because our entire district has gone “RED” due to covid numbers, and so we will have a week of virtual school before Christmas break starts. My kids were not happy about this news. My daughter’s best friend in her class does not have internet in her home. They are an immigrant family, the little girl in my daughter’s class has been diligently learning English this year, and it’s possible that she speaks the best English in her family. Our district is offering help for families to get internet, but some extenuating reason is keeping this family from getting connected to help. My daughter cried and cried because virtual school means she doesn’t see her friend any more. 

Such is life in one of the poorest schools in town. 

We walked down to the park this past Friday afternoon since the weather was nice. There is a Children’s Museum at the park that we used to have a membership to. Covid shut the Muse down and then when they finally opened it was with so many restrictions and weird hoops to jump through, that I decided to not renew our membership until it gets easier. One of my kids saw the Muse, Can we go there???!! No sweetie. Not right now. WHY??? Covid. It’s just made things too difficult. But, we’ll go again as soon as things get easier. 

Such is life with a pandemic.

My three year old informed another sibling that he had friends. What’s their names? I don’t know. But I have friends! He is remembering last year when we were at a homeschooling co-op once a week and he would play with kids his age. I decided to not do the co-op this year, mostly because I didn’t know how Covid was going to affect my public school kids and how often we would be home or in quarantine. Fortunately, my elementary kids have had a good run, no quarantines, been in school all semester till now. But, we didn’t know that in the beginning of the semester, and we have been pretty isolated this year. My three year old is blessed to have lots of siblings who play with him, but he doesn’t see many other children. 

Such is life with social distancing.

It’s been a rough year for our kids. I’ve had a couple kids who have been struggling with depression, anger, frustration that life is not going like it’s supposed to. And it’s really hard to see my kids struggle. It weighs me down. I feel like I’m working overtime to keep my head above water, keep my outlook positive, focus on the good, not the bad, and I finally get into a kinda-good place and then my kids start falling apart, and I start the mentally strenous journey of trying to help them see the good in life, help them focus on the positive, help them get to a kinda-good place…You know, we are supposed to preach the Gospel to our children, well, I would say this has been my most prolific preaching year yet. God’s in control. We need to count our blessings. Let’s talk about the good things that have happened. Let’s pray about it. God has promised to help us. One day at a time. 

We’ve got Christmas coming up, typically a stressful time of year as we try to add celebration preparations to all the other things we have to get done every day. We, as parents, are already running on empty. And with kids being off of school for the holidays, needing time and attention, I am trying to remind myself just how much grace my kids need. 

I have decided that I am not going to take this next week of virtual school too seriously. Sure, we’ll give it our best shot, but if we miss something, or accidentally skip something, or get really confused about something, I’m not going to give it a lot of weight. Oh well. Let’s move on. I’m also not going to try and be super strict about anything this Christmas. You want to watch tv? Sure. Go ahead. We’ll still do our regular chores, and I hope I can keep the kids interested in playing outside, reading books, playing games etc, but if everyone is in meltdown mode? Well, I might pull out some candy canes, or just turn the tv on for several hours. This is not the time for rigid rules or really high standards. We are all mentally exhausted, including our kids. Let’s be as kind as possible to each other. 

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. 

Quarantine Update #9078

This morning three of my kids woke up with sore throats. 

 

Hmm. What does this mean? In our current safer-at-home way of life, where all we can think about is viruses and not spreading sickness, I must say that having three children present themselves with “SYMPTOMS” was a bit alarming. 

 

I called the nurse line for their insurance and we talked about it. Well, they could just have a sore throat, they could have allergies (all 3 at the same time, the same morning?), they could have a cold, or be starting to get a regular flu. Or they could be having the mild symptoms of covid-19 that seem to be typical for children. 

 

My husband is still working. His job was deemed “Essential” in our county, though I’m not quite sure why. So then we have the question…does he go to work or stay home? 

 

If he stays home then we don’t get paid. If he goes to work and it turns out the kids actually did have the virus, then he would be spreading it everywhere. Or at least to his job site. 

 

This is not fun. 

 

We have decided to give the kids another 24 hrs and see how they are doing tomorrow. Andy will take a day off while we wait and see how this progresses, and I will probably consult a doctor via telehealth (as instructed by our insurance’s nurse line) to see what they have to say about it. 

 

In the meantime, I am understanding more and more, the article I read on grief and stress which said that when we are under stress we tend to revert to a less mature version of ourselves. We go for simple and easy. 

 

Tonight I went out and bought Corn Pops (a sugary children’s cereal made by KELLOGS) and ate them for supper. Yep, this is reverting to childhood and college-level nutrition habits. 

 

That was today’s stress. Two days ago we weathered a rather large crisis with one of our children. Three days ago I brought my son home early from his Bible school (and then the day after he got home, the school announced they were closing). Each day has felt like a big blow. And I keep getting up and moving forward. But I’m eating Corn Pops while I go. 

 

But, in the middle of all the stress, I’ve noticed a couple things.

 

The sun came out. The temperature has been at that amazing, “Just Right” upper 70s. My husband cut the grass for the first time this year, and the yard looks vibrantly green. The trees are budding full force now.  I saw some blue skies with beautiful white clouds sailing past.

I cleaned my little fish tank and it now looks amazingly clear and beautiful, as my two little fish swim around. My husband finally installed the new ceiling fan in our bedroom, the one he bought over a year and half ago, and which has been sitting in its box in our room for that amount of time, just waiting for that magical moment when he felt like installing it.

I got to take my kids to my parent’s property and let them run around in the woods and play in the creek for several hours. My husband’s family has started doing Zoom calls where we can all see each other on the screen and catch up on each other’s news. Since we are all literally spread all over the globe, it was really fun to have a group conversation. I’ve had some good text and voice conversations with other friends. 

 

God’s grace has been sufficient. 

 

Life is hard, and life is good. 

 

And we’ll continue to take it one day at a time. 

 

I’ll keep you all posted on how the kids are doing. Praying we aren’t sick. 

 

Coronavirus, Kids, and Mental Health

Hey Everyone. I’m wondering how everyone is doing right now with the World Pandemic?  I’ve got friends who have been preparing for this kind of scenario their whole lives, and they are READY! And then I have friends who aren’t taking things too seriously, still doing life as-normal as much as they can. I think I’m probably in the place that most people are. I’m taking it seriously, but I’m really not set up to be SUPER PREPARED. I don’t have the storage space or the extra cash flow to have two months of groceries stored up in my house. I live in the city. I don’t have a wilderness hide-away to retreat to in full-blown quarantine. I’m taking it one day at a time. 

 

So…Kids. Let’s talk kids. 

 

My kids are excited about having a super-long vacation. And mad because we can’t go do all the fun things they normally expect to do on a vacation. Can we go to the Children’s Museum? No. The zoo? No. The library? Well, we can go get a book, but we can’t hang out there. Play at the playground? No, way too many families there. 

 

I’ve seen a lot of posts online about How To Homeschool Your Child During Coronavirus. Homeschooling moms are in their element right now, finally, people willing to listen to their experiences!! I’ve told the kids we are going to start homeschooling next week. I’m starting to feel depressed about this. Our school system has said we are shutting down through April 3rd. I have no hope that they are going to be opening school on April 7th. And that makes me depressed. I stopped homeschooling for a reason. It was One Thing Too Many for me to handle. Right now it still feels like One Thing Too Many for me to handle. But, on the other hand, having a household full of children with no schedule and no real structure is also Too Much To Handle. So, I plan to homeschool just so I can give these kids schedules and structure, so we all don’t go insane. 

 

Here’s the plan. I plan to read devotions and have the younger kids choose a sentence from our Bible story that they can copy neatly and maybe draw a picture. I’ve got a cool history book I like called “Story of the World”. I plan to read this out loud to all the kids and give them paper and pencils to draw a picture of something that stands out to them in what I’m reading.  The older kids can write me a paragraph summary of what we’ve read in history. For math, my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are going to drill times tables, since none of them have their times tables memorized. I’ve got some cool science books that I’m also going to read out loud and let kids draw pictures and write descriptions of what we’ve read. And then, I’ve got a large selection of quality Children’s Literature. Everyone gets to pick a book and read some of it every day. My middle-schoolers and high-schoolers can get online and use resources that their schools are making available. My preschooler and kindergartner can do phonics workbooks that I already own, and I’ll continue to do reading lessons with them. The first grader can read books and all the little ones can do addition flashcards. Then we’ll run around outside and play a lot of games. And watch some of my favorite orchestra pieces on YouTube. And paint pictures. 

 

Or, I’ll lose all patience and tell the kids to turn on the tv and leave me alone. 

 

We’ll see. 

I guess, the point is, either scenario is fine. We all have structure and learn something. Great. We free roam, watch tv and eat snacks all day. Also ok. 

 

There isn’t a script that we are supposed to be following. This is new for all of us. Grace. We just need to practice grace for each other. Sometimes grace might look like stimulating our kid’s brains and giving them lots of interesting things to do. And sometimes grace might look like throwing the kids out in the yard and making them stay outside all day. Or binge watching Marvel Movies. Or getting Happy Meals. Or learning how to bake bread. 

 

Let’s just take it one moment at a time. 

 

Settling In and Reaching Out

Since December, my rallying cry has been, as soon as things calm down, we’ll settle into a good routine. That’s all we need.  A good routine. Since December we have also dealt with sickness that kept us out of school for a week, then school being closed for flu for a week, then missing who knows how many days for floods and crazy weather. And now the world has shut down, school is closed and we are all home. 

 

In a sense, I’ve got a better chance now of setting up a routine than I did before. Make a schedule for our house. I’ve got at least three weeks, minimum, to get us settled into a good routine. Most of our appointments have been cancelled. No pressure to get out and do things. Just home. 

 

Who knows, we might have such an awesome experience that we just decide to keep homeschooling, at least some of the kids. 

 

Or I might go insane. 

 

It’s a toss up. 

 

This week is our Spring Break and I told the kids I wouldn’t make them do any school work. Yesterday I took the kids to a playground. It had rained recently. When we got there, there was only one other family with two kids. Perfect. We are not interacting socially with anyone, just playing outside. Then a couple more families showed up, then more. And suddenly I felt like I was breaking a national covenant to not be near other people. We headed home. I told the kids we probably would have to skip playgrounds for a while. 

 

So, this morning I went to the Dollar Tree and picked up some puzzles and some school supplies. I sat down with the kids and we put puzzles together and then played Uno while some of the little kids played with building blocks and played Snakes and Ladders. Everyone co-operated. So nice. 

 

Of course, I’ve also dealt with some discipline issues that were so intense, one child is now spending the day with dad, sitting at a construction site. We’ve had some long time-out sessions. One child just put up a curtain around her bed to ensure privacy from pesky siblings. It’s a big mix of good and bad. Really, just life. 

 

Right now I am optimistic about how this will all play out for our family. 

 

I am also very aware that a large segment of society just lost their income as restaurants and bars were ordered closed. A bunch of small business owners are heading into a financial crisis. The entire economy of our country is just one big Question Mark right now. There are also a whole multitude of working parents who suddenly have to figure out childcare because their child’s school is closed. 

 

Last night I was dreaming about foster babies. In my dream I came home from being out and found three little babies just crying in my house. I was supposed to be taking care of them and feeding them, but no one had told me that they were dropping the babies off, and I had no idea how long they had just been sitting in my house crying. I was angry and devastated and frantically looking around for bottles and formula, trying to feed these hungry babies. 

 

I think the dream kind of mirrors how I’m feeling as I read about how many people have been put into a crisis with this pandemic. I feel the community-need to be stepping up and helping in whatever way I can. But, at the same time I feel like I’m completely maxed out. Could I babysit someone’s kids while they work? I’m not sure. I’m feeling the weight of eleven kids already. Could I donate money? Well, I give a tithe of our income every paycheck, but that little bit won’t go far. And I’m feeling the financial crunch as I’m suddenly not able to take advantage of the free breakfast and lunch at our schools. These kids eat a lot. 

 

I feel impotent. People need help. I should be helping. I’m already helping. I don’t think I can do more. Except maybe ask all of you to look around and see if you are doing all that you can. Maybe you could babysit for your friend. Maybe you can make a donation to a small business. Maybe you are in a position to offer help to someone in need. 

 

I know right now, this situation is so unexpected and different, that we are all scrambling to get our own families situated. But, if you can, I encourage you to look for some tangible way to reach out and help. It’s the only way we’re all going to make it.