Sunday, March 29, 2020

Doing Just Fine

The kids are thriving at home. Nate and me? It depends on the hour. I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling these forty foot waves of emotion. I think because we're healthy and don't [yet] know anyone who is sick with Covid-19, it's easy to go about our days, occasionally forgetting why the world is on lock down. Then I remember and feel totally out of the loop, so I check Instagram or Twitter for some breaking news. Instead of becoming better informed, I get swept up in threads like this:


You can probably imagine the "conversation" that follows - thousands of people completely agreeing and thousands feeling offended because they actually do have a lot of time on their hands because they have lost their job, don't have kids, etcetera, etcetera. All sides are completely valid, but I tend to get worked up just reading this sort of thing because I begin to take it all personally [even though I didn't write it!!]

Thankfully I follow Tiffany Roe, a therapist in Utah, who reminds me that people's reactions are not personal. Today she wrote, "WOW social media is a baptism by fire sometimes y'all....How is it possible that in communication, one instance can trigger such vast responses (reactions) in people? Because we each have a unique lens that creates our world. We are not responsible for other people's feelings. Nor can we control them."


I also started following David Brooks and Andy Crouch on Twitter after watching a great panel discussion by The Veritas Forum last week. It's long, but worth it if you're in the mood for attempting to pull meaning out of this crazy time. But the reason I bring up David Brooks here is that I read an opinion piece he wrote about finding meaning in the pandemic. I cringed as I read many of the comments, again, partly because I know how personally I would take comments written about something that I wrote. I hope that anyone with a massive social media following has thicker skin than me or a good therapist.

To try and stay informed and emotionally healthy, I'm trying to limit my time on social media and instead listen to two podcasts each day - Up First by NPR and The Daily by the NYTimes. Since I can't walk with friends, these podcasts have become a nice companion.

The kids are thriving because they love staying home, planned activities, and extra iPad time. We're SUPER thankful that for the most part, they play well together. I'm thankful that Nate likes to cook and that he shares a belief that the kids MUST get outside at least once each day. Two or three times is even better. 

Yesterday we biked to a frisbee golf course where the baskets hadn't been reinstalled yet, but we still had fun. Today we biked to Olbrich Park and Nate taught us all how to fly stunt kites.

Love this shot
They all got pretty good at keeping the kite up in the air

Oh, and one more thing before I let you go. Back in November, I bought some cute card-making/scrapbooking supplies that I was planning to give the girls for Christmas. I ended up saving them and pulled them out for "art" class the other day. This sheet of stickers was obviously from back in the day when we all longed for the days when we could choose to stay home and bake cookies or read a book!

Yeah, let's stay home!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A poem by Kristin Flyntz

This was powerful, so I wanted to remember it here.
STOP! (An Imagined Letter from Covid-19 to Humans) 
Stop. Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions, to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa, China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way, buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs that you might hear:
We are not well.
Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now.
Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom.
What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threats of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?
Stop.
Notice if you are resisting.
Notice what you are resisting.
Ask why.
Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

-Kristin Flyntz

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Me? Homeschool?

If you would have asked me a month ago if I'd be open to homeschooling my kids, I would have grieved at the thought of losing my days at home alone. I love them - productive, but slow and calm. Very free of clutter. But I suppose something has to change psychologically about your willingness to try something when it's not a choice.

At school pick-up at 2:47 on Friday, a mom-friend of mine read a headline from Madison.com - Madison schools to move spring break up one week, add staff-only days. All the parents were frustrated that the district didn't send us an email announcing this. Looking back, I should have been slower to accuse poor communication in a time such as this. I can't imagine the stress of being a decision maker before closing public places and cancelling events was the thing to do.

I went into the weekend thinking that I had Monday and Tuesday to prepare for having the kids home for a couple of weeks. But by Sunday afternoon, an email from the district went out announcing that schools were closed effective immediately. We were standing in a gorgeous park with some friends [6 feet apart!] when Joel read the news. I'm pretty sure I did a toddler jump/stomp because I was so annoyed. But from that moment on, something shifted in me and I was actually kind of excited to lay out our plan.

Lake Farm County Park - lovely trails for adult walking with a mini-forest for kids to explore!
That evening, I scanned some online articles about how to be at home with your kids during a pandemic and was reminded of how much kids like routine. I like routine too, I thought. So I borrowed Cora's white board from a teacher kit that she got for Christmas, and started sketching it out. Here's the first version.


Overall, day one was a good day. Around 8:50, after math, Cora said, I like homeschool so far! Reading time was too short, mostly because everyone wants to have a turn with an online game or reading app in addition to independent reading and reading/writing worksheets. Art was also too short because that is hands down all three kids' favorite subject (well, second to recess). Recess was too short. This was obvious after I observed how perfectly content they are outside without my supervision while I can get stuff done in. So Monday night, I made some changes to our school schedule. This was our schedule for day two:

7 a.m. - Wake, get dressed, and eat breakfast
7:45 - Bible time
8 a.m. - Foreign language
8:20 - Math
9 a.m. - Free choice
9:45 - Clean up (from free choice) + snack
10:15 - Chores + recess
11 a.m. - Reading/letters/sounds
11:45 - Music/piano practice
12:15 - Lunch
12:45 - Science
1:15 - Art
2 p.m. - Recess
2:30 - Snack + adventure/outing

Nate found a couple of apps for our iPads and I subscribed to education.com, which has proven super helpful. Thank goodness for free art classes like this and this! For foreign language learning, we've been using Mango Languages, which is free to access through our public library. 

I'm sure I could come up with some cool science demos to do with the kids, but our school pointed us to Brainpop.com as a good resource for teaching kids about the new coronavirus, so we used it again today to learn about making observations. It's a bit tricky finding a good balance between Louisa's 3rd grade level of learning and Peter's pre-K one, but I'm pretty much operating on a something is better than nothing and routine is key to keep myself sane level.

Learning to draw a leprechaun...all together...without arguing
Ugh. I'm all of the sudden feeling guilty about my intense privilege that allows me to be home to do anything with my kids, let alone a pretty sweet schedule of good learning, play and outdoor time. Dear Jesus, help me to do something good with this realization of my privilege, not be bogged down in guilt by it.

As my neighbor said today [from her car, 6 feet away!], getting outside is the only saving grace. We plan to embrace that saving grace by doing an afternoon adventure/outing every afternoon. Yesterday we went back to Lake Farm County Park and found some new paths and a boardwalk. Today we road our bikes to some nearby parks, crossing two pedestrian overpasses that the kids were pretty excited about. Immediately when we got home, they all jumped right back into drawing classes from KidsArtHub - choosing a dragon and a cartoon s'more. Not sure where the art gene slipped in, but I'll take it!



At night, when I sing Peter his goodnight songs, he always asks what we're going to do the next day and 95% of the time wants his last song to highlight that. Tonight it veered a bit. Instead of asking me to sing about another day of homeschool, he asked me to sing about the pizza that we plan to have for dinner tomorrow. Shoot, his mom-teacher didn't quite make his top one list. Oh well, I have a few more days to work towards that goal.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Winter(ish) Biking

Biking along on the tag-along bike, Peter says, "the problem with biking is that it's cold, but the problem with cars is that they warm the earth." I just love this kid. The funny thing is that considering the weather lately, his comment fits. When we were biking this morning, it was about 35 and gorgeously sunny. I wouldn't call 35 warm, especially with the brisk breeze created by my speedy e-bike, BUT, it has definitely felt like a "warming planet" winter so far.

On our way home (we were meeting some friends for a before school pastry stop), he made me laugh again. "Peter," I said, "help me up this hill!" "I am," he said. Pause. "Am I? Am I going the right way?" He has been known to pedal backwards on the tag along.

As much as I am looking forward to next year when the kids are all in full-time school at Lowell, I will miss these sweet one-on-one moments. Before taking the selfie below, he protested, saying "we can just tell Louisa, Cora and Dad about this." I convinced him, explaining that I wanted to have a picture to remember this by (and to post on our blog)!

New shades that Mary gave Peter for Christmas
The tag-along set up

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