Covid19: Six Months Later

Covid19: Six Months Later

It’s been six months since I contracted Covid. March 19, 2020 was the first day of symptoms, and here we are mid-September. It’s been a surreal and crazy experience, and I thought I would give an update on how things are going. For a little background context, you can read about my initial experience here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/03/29/my-experience-with-covid19/. The post is real and raw, and details my frustrations with having difficulty getting answers.

However, what I didn’t know when I wrote my original post, was that I would become what is now dubbed “long termer”. This term, which wasn’t really a term when I was in the thick of it, means that my life and my health have suffered long term effects from having the virus. The virus caused severe inflammation in my lungs. Thankfully, I never needed supplemental oxygen, but I had to spend weeks and weeks in bed. I could only be around my family for short periods of time, because simply talking required so much effort. And when you have three young children, you can’t be around them and just not talk. They don’t understand that. Breathing felt like a brick was sitting on my chest, or that I was trying to inhale through a tiny coffee stirrer straw. If I needed to take a deep breath, it would take me several tries to fill my lungs. Because my lungs were having to work harder, my heart was also having to work harder. My pulse was often above 90bpm at rest. Yes, this is still within normal rage, but it is not normal for my typical healthy body. These things coupled would then cause me extreme fatigue. Think first trimester pregnancy fatigue. You just can’t shake it. The fatigue and the shortness of breath were not only physically challenging, but mentally challenging as well. I don’t think there has been a lot of talk about the mental challenges of dealing with Covid. You see, by this point, it had been well over a month since I had the active virus. I felt fine. I didn’t have a fever or cough or anything like that. But the fact that I could not participate in my life in a normal way was crushing. It gave me new empathy for those who suffer from chronic illnesses. There were simple things I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t.

At the beginning of May, I contacted my doctor again to talk about the difficulties I was having with doing simple things and still getting so winded. He prescribed me a long acting steroid asthma inhaler. I use this inhaler each morning, and it last all day long. He also sent me for a chest x-ray, which came back clear. Yes, in theory, it was nice to have a clear x-ray, but my symptoms were so significant that I was wanting some validation. This is also when the antibody testing first became available. And you know what? My antibody test was negative. It was crushing. Like completely devastating. My doctor couldn’t explain it, other than to say his other covid patients were seeing the same results. Now, we know that people don’t retain antibodies for long. I was honestly really frustrated at this point. I felt like I needed more tests. I also wanted simple things, like for the doctor to listen to my chest with a stethoscope. I was so fed up with tele-health appointments.

After starting the asthma inhaler, I started seeing some slight improvement. I began to have more good days, where I could do typical things like talk to my family without getting winded. Some days, I would regress back. It wasn’t a linear recovery process. Just because I had one good day didn’t mean that the next day would also be a good day. It was a surprise each morning. This back and forth nonsense was mentally challenging. I couldn’t make plans. I missed spending time with my family. I missed cooking. I missed my former healthy self. But, ever so slowly, I began to have more good days than hard days. Like three to four good days in a row. I started trying to push myself a little. I would sing in the car or go for walks to strengthen my lungs. Then came a set back.

It was a really good day at the beginning of June. I had a lot of energy that day, so I decided to go for a jog. I had done this once before, and I was excited. I drove to a park that had a nice flat track, and I did a mix of jogging and walking for about 30 minutes. When I got back to my car, I had some slight tightness in my chest. As I drove home (less than 10 minutes away), the tightness increased, and by the time I walked through my door I couldn’t talk because breathing had become too difficult. I immediately went upstairs, did my albuterol inhaler, put my pulse oximeter on my finger and laid down. After about 30 minutes, my oxygen was still below 94%. I was still having a lot of tightness in my chest, and my pulse was 130bpm. I decided to go to the emergency room. The doctors and nurses there were so wonderful. They ran all the tests. All of them. I even got a lung CT, which is a specific test I had been wanting. Everything was clear (again, nice in theory and I’m thankful in hinds sight, but I was still wanting some validation for my troubles). My heart rate and oxygen slowly returned to normal, and I was sent home. The whole experience was like an asthma attack, but I do not have asthma. Now, I use my albuterol inhaler before exercise just in case, and I haven’t had anything like this happen since.

As June and July passed, I had great days. Things finally felt like they were returning to normal. I was even back to regular exercise. Then, my seven year old came to me one day at the end of July complaining of her stomach hurting. She had no other symptoms, but complained off and on for about two weeks. During this time, my two year old was a little extra fussy, and his diapers were slightly off. If you read my previous Covid post, you’ll know that my kids also were presumed positive for the virus in March. So, these symptoms were confusing. Covid testing labs were very backed up. We decided to not put them through the test, when others in our community were needing those resources more than we were. After about two weeks of stomach pains, my oldest then started complaining of being out of breath off and on. It didn’t effect her activity level,, and she would just randomly mention it off handedly. Then, I had a few days of feeling run down and extra tired. My legs were cramping at night, and I developed a ever so slight cough…again.

I know, as of right now, there hasn’t been concrete documented research on being reinfected with the virus, but I really think we got Covid again. However this time, it was about 10% as far as severity as to what I went through in March. Thankfully, I listened to doctors educating about how the immune system is so much more complex than just antibodies. I was confident that my body would be able to handle the virus more effectively this time. And it did. After about a week, I was back to normal. My kids improved as well, with no other hiccups.

As you can see, this whole pandemic has been quite the rollercoaster for me and my family. I can’t go any further without giving my husband the biggest shout out. He has taken such good care of me over the past six (!) months, never once making me feel guilty about needing rest. So, as of right now, I am still using my daily inhaler. Sometimes, I need the extra help of the albuterol, but maybe only like once a week or so. Most days, I feel back to my normal self, but it’s been a long road to get here. And that is really one of my main purposes for sharing my story. Yes, most people handle the virus just fine and only feel sick for a week or two. But some people will be effected like me. People, like me, with no pre-existing conditions will have long term health consequences. I didn’t die. I didn’t need to be admitted to the hospital, but my life and the life of my family has been changed. And that matters. That is significant. There’s more to this thing than just the death rates (which matter greatly). Take it seriously. Love each other and be kind.

Read about how to prepare for the the possibility of catching the virus and how to talk to your kids about it here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/04/05/preparing-for-covid19-and-talking-to-your-kids-about-it/

Intentional Days

Intentional Days

Hey there mama, how are you? The seasons are changing. Can you feel it? Fall and pumpkin spice are in the air. Crunching leaves are beneath your feet. I love fall so much, but any change of seasons is a special time. It’s a time to reflect on the months previous and be grateful for lessons learned. Now, I realize those lessons might have been taught through hard and stressful days, but lessons they were none the less. For example, I learned that I need to include things that I want for lunches during the week into my grocery shopping. I mean, I can only eat a PB&J so many times, unlike my children who are content to relish it daily.

Fall not only brings about a change in the weather, it almost always brings a change to schedules and routines. Kids are returning to school (however new and odd that looks this year #2020). Even if you homeschool, days are able to be filled with more time outside and seasonal experiences. Last week, I shared about how to plan and live intentionally with the big things in life, whatever that is for you. You can read about that here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/09/07/living-intentionally-well/ But today, I want to talk about how to plan for and have intentional days with the little mundane things.

Now, I’m not saying I am perfect by any means, but when I intentionally make a plan for my week, my day to day life is much less stressful. I’m not talking about big abstract things, I am talking about things like menu planning, lesson planning, and schedule planning. Yep, it seems simple, right? It is. But this is something I have found takes a real discipline to stay committed to. It’s easy to fall into the cycle of waking up Monday morning and thinking, “Oh, shoot! What do I have going on this week?”. Then having to quickly spend rushed mental energy trying to remember all.the.things. It is much easier to take some time on Friday afternoon and peacefully make a game plan (plan of attack) for the following week. Warm up that left over cup of coffee you never finished and stick the kids in front of the tv (no shame!) and let’s make a plan!

Here’s a random fact about me. I love office supplies. Put me in an Office Depot, and I will be content for hours. However, as much as I love paper planners and stickers and pretty pens, don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you have to have the perfect tools to plan your week well. You don’t. Also, don’t think the way you plan for your family has to look like the way I plan for my family. We all have different needs and focuses. This year, I have been using a daily planner. It has been okay, but I really miss having a weekly set up. So, I’ll be switching back to that next year. You might prefer to use a monthly calendar. Or just recycle the back of that mile long CVS receipt. What ever works for you!

So, what does the process look like for me? Well, when I am really on top of my game, hubby and I have a “calendar meeting,” where we take fifteen minutes to discuss any appointments we having coming up and who is taking who to various sports activities. Then, I write out any other commitments I have with the kids. Do we have a play date this week? Are we going to have a movie night? Write it down. All of it. Next comes menu planning. This is best done at home, before you are actually at the the grocery store, ha. Typically, I will look over our nights and decide which nights I need to prepare dinner early (sports’ practice night), which nights need to be a quick and easy dinner (nights when I’m working), and which nights I can cook a full meal. Next, I will go to the pantry and freezer and see what we already have on hand, and I will try to form my weekly dinner menu around that. This helps our grocery budget as well. I do all of this on Fridays. That is what is working for us now in this season.

So, at this point, I have schedules, activities, and meals planned. The only thing left for me to do is make our homeschool lesson plans. If I am being transparent, this is something I am still trying to hone in on. Because this is our first full semester homeschooling, I still feel like our lessons are a lot of trial and error. And that is ok! It took time for me to develop a weekly planning method that worked well for schedules, activities, and meals. It takes practice, and it’s okay if it takes you time as well. But the reward is so great. Six days a week, I don’t have to spend mental energy deciding what we are going to have for dinner. It’s not a surprise when I get a reminder text about an upcoming appointment, and my kids feel valued because I didn’t forget that I told them they could stay up late one night and watch a movie. Totally worth it.

What about you? Do you have a method for planning your days? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Living Intentionally Well

Living Intentionally Well

I’ve spent the last two weeks thinking some deep thoughts. Thoughts about expectations I’ve placed on myself and making adjustments. You see, about three week ago, I found myself stretched to the max. We were still trying to find our rhythm with homeschooling, my husband’s work schedule shifted (again), my two oldest children started [separate] sports, and apparently there is a lot to growing a blog from the ground up. My brain was fried. I felt like I was juggling 15,000 balls in the air. It was all too much. I had to take a beat and remind myself on what was important. Now granted, when looking at that list, these things are ALL important. But, I needed to take some time to plan, focus, and reevaluate where I was spending my mental energy. You see, my little corner of the internet here is called Intentionally Well because I believe it is of the upmost importance that we live our days on purpose with a purpose. Our days are numbered. They are limited. I want to spend mine well.

On this quest of intentionality, I’ve learned something. You have to be intentional about being intentional. It seems redundant, doesn’t it? I know, I know, but go with me here. Our lives are not static. Things change (hello 2020!). Schedules, routines, seasons, etc., it’s always shifting. I find that my brain can handle some minor shifting and take it in stride. But after a while, I feel like I’m swimming in a deep sea while just trying to stay afloat. And that, sweet friend, is not a place that I like to be. Do you? Therefore, it makes sense that we need to be consistently evaluating our circumstances to know where we need to put our time and energy. Notice I said constantly, not continually. When you do this well, it won’t need need to be something that you have to dwell on daily. You’ll already know what’s important and where you need to spend your time. You’ll be able to focus on what really matters, and let everything else fade to the background.

So, how exactly do we do this? I like to take myself on a little date with my planner and calendar at the end of each month. I go to lunch or a coffee shop alone and spend time taking inventory of what is happening in my family and what we have coming up. I consider how things are going and what needs tweaking. If my schedule doesn’t have room for my little date, then I’ll spend some time planning after the kids are in bed. But, friend, there is something so relaxing about getting out of your every day environment. It is SO much easier to focus when that pile of laundry isn’t staring at you in your peripheral vision. I find that monthly planning is what works best for me, but you might find weekly or quarterly is better for you. The frequency isn’t as important as the consistency, which then develops into a habit. Now, I am not talking about a daily to do list or things like my homeschooling lesson plans. I am talking about planning things like family time, how I am going to grow in my relationship with the Lord, what needs focus in my marriage, what needs changing so I am living my life from a place of rest. Big things. Important things that if we aren’t intentional about will slowly disintegrate if left unattended.

I have been doing intentional planning like this for about two years. I know it works and is beneficial. But I’ll be honest, it’s been harder this year. 2020….there really aren’t enough or adequate words to brush the surface of what this year has been like for all of us. Putting it lightly, it’s been hard. Some months, I have been on it. Like planning and intentionality to the tee. Then other months, like last month, I’ve rushed it. I always pay for it. But that’s ok. Remember, it’s the consistency that matters. We don’t have to do life perfectly to do life well. So, I’m pausing and evaluating what and where to spend my time. And you can to!

Do you plan out the big things in life? How do you live intentionally in the season you’re in? Let me know in the comments below.

Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Phonics: Teaching My Kids to Read

Abeka. It’s one of the most widely known curricula. It’s used extensively in the homeschool community as well as traditional schools. When we decided to homeschool, I knew Abeka was going to be one of our resources. Teaching our kids to read can be one of the most overwhelming this about homeschooling. It was to me at least. This was heightened by the fact that one of my children was struggling with their phonics, but I was told over and over again how great Abeka would be for that.

And it’s true. Abeka has a strong phonics based Language Arts approach. So, I bought some of the workbooks and flash cards. I chose not to buy the complete Language Arts bundle, because I didn’t think we needed it all and it overwhelmed me. I definitely wouldn’t put them in the “budget friendly” category, but every product is bright, colorful, and has excellent quality. Because Abeka has such a traditional approach, I knew I didn’t want to use it for every subject all the things. We are in the eclectic lane of homeschooling, but I do try to limit the amount of worksheets my kids have to do.

First the pros. My kids are learning. My struggling reader has learned confidence in herself. She’s gained patience to sound out words, and she has already progressed to the next reading level. I am so thrilled with her progress, especially since we had to start from the beginning (she was previously being taught a whole language approach in public school). Also, my new reader is actively and steadily learning her phonics. She has just started reading level A books, which is so fun. And, her favorite thing in our homeschool is her letter sound book.

Ok, now the cons. Despite all the progress my kids have made, I just don’t love it. It’s repetitive and boring, especially for my oldest. She basically has to complete the same worksheet every day, just with new information switched out. There is a lot of testing. Like weekly. We don’t even do the tests, because I already know how my kids are preforming. Also, it’s important to know that Abeka is basically a grade level ahead of public school. Because my oldest came right out of public school, she is having to do first grade work in Abeka, even though she is in second grade. She doesn’t really have an issue with this because I explained to her why, but I know things like that can be upsetting for some children. Abeka also moves through material very quickly. Our math curriculum is very traditional as well, and two traditionally taught subjects seems to be too many worksheets for our family.

Right now, my plan is for us to complete the Abeka materials I’ve already purchased. However, I will to switch to another phonics based Language Arts program once we are finished with it. All in all, I don’t regret reaching for and trying out Abeka for our Language Arts. It’s helped my kids learn and progress. It was so nice having an “open and go” option when we were first making the switch to homeschooling from public school. But, it’s not something that will work for my kids long term, and I am happy there are so many other options out there.

Tell me, that are you using for Language Arts this year? Have you ever started a curriculum, then decided it wasn’t the best fit? Tell me about it in the comments below.

Helpful Links:

Our Favorite Early Readers: https://amzn.to/3aSXntY

Read About Our Math Curriculum here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/19/math-love-it-or-hate-it/

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Math: Love It or Hate It?

Either way, we have to teach it. Hopefully, we can teach our kids not to hate it. I actually really enjoyed math in school. It was my favorite subject. Side note: I’m a child of a math teacher…so maybe it’s genetics? Math made sense to me. It was like solving puzzles, and my Type A personality savored the fact that there is always a right answer. I’d probably still do Algebra problems for fun. Joking, not joking!

When it came time to choose a math curriculum for my early elementary aged kids, I was here for it! However, I became quickly overwhelmed. There are a LOT of choices out there, and there are a lot of different methods for teaching math to kids. I googled, I polled Facebook groups, I asked friends what they were using, and so on. A few curricula were mentioned over and over again, so I did a deep dive.

I was all set to spend a bunch of money on a super trendy program. It looked so fun, but I hesitated. It was a really expensive curriculum, and I was having to make a choice with never seeing the books in person. I decided to poll my homeschool mommy friends one more time. See, I already learned math. I am good at it, and I one hundred percent did not want to have to learn new methods for myself. I wanted a curriculum that taught to “carry the one” in addition. Did you know that’s not taught in public schools anymore?? At least it’s not in our’s. So, come to find out, the curriculum I was about to buy did not teach the 90’s way of math I was looking for.

When I told my homeschool community exactly what I was looking for in a math curriculum, I had one sweet mama recommend Christian Light Education. It is definitely in the Traditional category of homeschooling. You can tell parent book is made for a teacher in the classroom setting. But for math, I feel like that is okay. We don’t need a lot of fluff. Best of all, my kids are learning to carry the one! Added bonus: this curriculum is pretty budget friendly, which is so nice when having to buy for multiple grades.

I can only speak to their math program, but Christian Light Education is simple and straight forward and has a spiral approach. This means that the child learns a new skill with the parent, then reviews previously learned skills independently each day. There are ten units per grade level, and each unit includes quizzes and a test. We use these just as an indicator as to what we need to continue to work on. There isn’t a dedicated Kindergarten math level with this company. It starts in grade one, so your child has to have a basic knowledge of numbers and counting. My kindergartener learned a lot of basics in preschool, so I felt comfortable starting her in grade one for math. She has done really well with it. My second grader is right on schedule with grade two, and she tells me that math is her favorite subject. She especially loves the Speed Drills. Child after my own heart!

Helpful Links:

Christian Light Education Website: https://www.clp.org/store/browse/31_curriculum

Math materials we use:

Unifix Cubes: https://amzn.to/2Q6pYlP

Unit Books Organizer: https://amzn.to/2EjXouz

Learning Clock: https://amzn.to/3hcjhuv

Play Money: https://amzn.to/3iWWCTz

Rulers: https://amzn.to/31cPMU1 and https://amzn.to/34dhbXE

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Having a World View

Having a World View

When we first decided to homeschool back in January of 2020, I did what any mom would do. I joined as many local homeschool Facebook groups as I could, so that I could learn all the things from other moms who were actually doing the things. It was in one of these groups where I first heard about the curriculum I want to talk to you about today. It’s called Torchlight, and it is our social studies and geography curriculum. Guys, I love this thing so much. It’s my favorite thing we do, and I am learning just as much as the kids are some weeks. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Torchlight? I’m not surprised. It seems to be a newer curriculum, that is also secular. Let me tell you about it.

Torchlight is in the Charlotte Mason lane. You learn through books. The author (a homeschooling mom!) grew up reading with a flashlight (torchlight) under the covers every night after she was supposed to be asleep. Her heart is for kids to love books. This is what first peeked my interest. I want my kids to love reading. Up until earlier this year, books have kind of been take it or leave it for them. That broke my heart, because I love reading, and I want my kids to also love reading. The next thing that got me really excited about this curriculum was that it covered everything except math and language arts. That meant I could use the same level for both of my children, even though they are two grades apart. Torchlight covers literature, science, geography, cultural studies, and art. We are nine weeks into using the curriculum and have decided to not use the science aspect, but that is only because my kids had some specific unit studies they wanted to do (more on that later).

Let’s talk about the geography and cultural studies aspect of this curriculum, because that is what sealed the deal for me. When looking at other curricula, I honestly found a lot of them to be very ethnocentric and white washed. I don’t mean that to sound harsh, but it is just a fact. And let me be clear, I do not judge anyone for choosing a different program for their kids. Seriously. We all have our own priorities, and different things are important to different people. This is something that is important to our family. It is important to us that our kids realize that we live in a great big world with billions of people who all live and believe differently. For example, when we learned about the formation of Central Park in New York, we also learned about Seneca Village. Have you ever heard of it? I definitely hadn’t. When we learned about Nepal and Bangladesh, we read a story about a little girl who worked and saved all her money to buy an oil lamp for her home, because her family didn’t have electricity.

I chose to do Level K with my kindergartener and second grader. Torchlight tends to run older in its themes and books, so this is a really great fit. I can scale things up and down as needed for each child very easily. For Level K, we learn about a different country or small group of countries each week. Last week, we learned about Congo (DRC), Zimbabwe, and Zambia. We read various books about the country and its people. We also do an art project and read a piece of literature, usually an early chapter book. It has been so.much.fun.! Next year we will start learning ancient history with Level 1. I really like the idea of teaching to have a world view, then diving into the actual history of the world.

The fact that Torchlight is a secular curriculum is a nonissue for us. Before homeschooling, our kids were enrolled in public school where they were receiving a secular education. We are also doing our own Bible routine, which you can read about here: https://intentionallywell.org/2020/08/12/our-bible-curriculum/

If you are interested in Torchlight, you can check it out here: https://torchlightcurriculum.com/torchlight/

Here in the inflatable globe (aka space saving and cost effective globe) we are using: https://amzn.to/2DYHZjF

**Some links are affiliates which helps to support my little passion blog here at Intentionally Well. Thank you for your support**

Sending My Child to Preschool

Sending My Child to Preschool

But wait a minute….Didn’t I just write a whole post about our decision to homeschool? Yes. Yes, I did. We are homeschooling are kindergartener and second grader. However, we decided that our almost three year old will still attend his preschool this year. He will be going to school two mornings a week starting mid-August.

There was a lot that went into this decision, and it wasn’t easy given the current state of the world. Some of the main points in choosing this route were acknowledging that what’s best for one child in our family might not be what’s best for another child, and that is okay. Our preschooler needs some more opportunities to be around a group of peers. He needs to learn that he can have fun with other people rather than just mommy and daddy and sisters. He needs some more practice in following rules in a more structured environment like a classroom. Are you catching a theme? We really feel that the social skills he will gain in preschool this year will be a huge benefit for him. Teaching those types of social skills at home can be really difficult (although, definitely not impossible). He also has a minor speech delay. We are confident that preschool will continue to propel his speech forward. And lastly, he LOVES his preschool. He loves circle time and singing songs and dancing and all the things. He thrived last year in his little class, and I have no doubt he will do the same this year.

Now, what about the Big C? The Corona? This is where I am just going to have to trust and rely on God. I have His peace right now. If something changes, then we can always reevaluate. The school is putting procedures in place to keep staff and the kids safe, without being too over the top. Kids will still be able to be kids. Our family has already had Covid19. And even though the whole immunity situation is still a big question mark, we are confident that if/when we are exposed again, that our bodies will know how to fight the virus.

There are no easy or clear answers for anything these days. We are all doing the best we can with the information we have. And that is okay. Our kids are going to be okay. Mama, your kids are going to be okay! What is best for us this year might not be what we choose for the following year. Just like everyone else, we will take things day by day, week by week, and month by month. Tell me more about how your kids will do school this year. Are all of your kids on the same path? Or are different kids doing different things? Do you have peace about your decisions?

We’re a Homeschool Family Now

We’re a Homeschool Family Now

Yep, we have made a change. Like every other family in America, school is going to look different for us this year. However, our switch to homeschooling was not a reaction to the Coronavirus. Homeschooling has been on and off our hearts since forever. When we lived in the south, I had many friends who homeschooled (how many times do you think I will type this world out in this post? haha!). I was so intrigued by it. But my oldest is an extrovert, and I felt like our personalities clashed often when I would try to teach her things or switch to “school mode” at home. So, I doubted myself. I doubted my ability, even though I taught preschool before kids.

Fast forward a couple of years, and our kids were thriving in their preschools. They were learning, having fun, and I was enjoying those few hours of separation (having littles is tough, guys). Every time homeschooling started to creep back into my mind, I would push it out with all these positives. Then came Kindergarten for my oldest. I was dreading it. It was SUCH a long day, and i knew that a lot of that time was filler. She wouldn’t get home until about 4:00 and would be utterly exhausted. And that’s exactly what happened. I really felt like the long school day was stealing our family time. Because my husband works in ministry, our weekends are often busy. Homeschooling, again, started to weigh on me, but I put a pin in it.

Then came first grade. We loved her teacher, but the school wasn’t meeting some specific needs my child had. When I would bring this up (over and over again), I was met with a lot of explanations but also a lot of resistance. My middle was in pre-k, and the thought of her having to deal with the long day of public school kindergarten made my brain hurt. And so in January of 2020, we once and for all decided that public school was not working for our family. We knew then that we would be homeschooling the following year. We told the kids our decision (they were so excited!), and I started dabbling in researching homeschool methods and curriculums (curricula?).

And then the world as we knew it came crashing down. When schools closed in March of 2020, my oldest was sent assignments to do at home, and she would upload her work for her teacher to see. It was here that I got a really good sense of how she was being taught, and I was like no wonder! Neither of us had much fun with this e-learning. It was a chore. I had already ordered some homeschool materials, so we withdrew our oldest 2 kids from their perspective schools and started our homeschool journey right then and there.

It was so great! Even with having to take breaks as I recovered from Covid, the kids really learned a lot. Best of all, we saw them grow closer as siblings and have FUN with school. We did school until the end of May and took a break in June to enjoy the summer. It was really nice to have those weeks to slowly ease into what homeschool would look like for our family.

The week after the Forth of July, we officially started our new homeschool year. I have a second grader, a Kindergartener, and a toddler (who will still attend preschool two mornings a week). We are about three weeks in, and so far so good….I think. Just kidding! It’s good. We are learning new rhythms and routines. Learning to give and receive grace. Learning when to push through and when to take it slow. Learning how to balance all the things and not feel stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve loved all of it. I love seeing my kids learn new things and know that I was a part of that.

School is going to be different for everyone this year. Some families are homeschooling, some are choosing virtual school, some are choosing in person school (as much as the districts will allow). There are no easy or clear answers for any of us. I am here for you. I support you. What works for our family might not work for your family, and that’s ok! Share with me what you and your family will be doing this fall in the comments.

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

Nurturing Sibling Relationships

I want to preface this post with love. I know that we as mothers are doing the very best we can. Mothering and parenthood is legit hard. It’s a high and holy calling on us. My heart is to share a few things that have helped our family. And my hope is that maybe something shared can bring a little more peace to your home where there might be chaos. My heart is not boastful. I do not get it right every time, and I definitely do not know all the things. We struggle and have hard days and weeks just like every one. Also, my children are young. I know that things will change as they get older, and we will have to mold and adjust our strategies as our children grow. My husband and I are continually having conversations about what each of our children need and how we can best meet those needs. I am not an expert, and I believe a lot of sibling dynamics come from individual personalities. However, there have been a few things that we have purposely implemented in our family culture to nurture the relationships among our children.

First and most importantly, we view siblings as a gift in our family. My husband and I don’t take for granted the value of this special bond among our 3 kids. I grew up as an only child, and my husband has one younger brother. We are not experts by our own account, but we have a deep desire for our kids to have a special, close, and unbreakable bond. For much of my childhood, I longed for that “best” friend who would be present in my life for years and years. That deep connection when you can read each other’s thoughts without saying a word. Childhood friendships can graze the surface of this, but those relationships tend to be fluid and temporary. They depend on where you live, what school you go to, etc, and those things can change often for kids. But siblings are with you forever. They’re stuck with you, ha! So, I think for us, that is the biggest motivator for for how our kids view each other. They are a gift. It all starts with your heart and how you as the parent view sibling relationships.

Secondly, I have basically been a helicopter parent when it comes to conflict resolution among our children. In the toddler years, that actually meant me having them repeat what I say when resolving a conflict. I intentionally taught them the words and tone of voice to use. I took the time to explain to one child why the other child was feeling a certain way. If one child did something hurtful, I would tell them to look at their sibling, and I would say calmly, “Look at their face. They are sad. It made them sad when you did xyz. You need to say sorry and make it right.” I start this around age two. I believe it helps them to develop an awareness and empathy for others. I have only just recently started letting my 5 and 7 year old work out conflict on their own. And it has, honestly, been a joy to hear them both state their opinions on a situation and come to their own compromises. It really makes all that hard work I did when they were younger worth it. I also really take the time to explain to the older kids that those younger than them are still learning. That we have to be patient and teach them. This is especially poignant, as I call my now 2 year old the toddleriest toddler I ever had. He is in his learning stage, and my older two often have to give him grace when they don’t initially feel like it. That is also a good life lesson.

Thirdly, to the best of our ability, we parent the hearts of our children and not just their behavior. So if one child is going through a phase where they’re repeatedly getting frustrated and yelling at another child, we not only address the behavior but also get to the reason as to why said child is frustrated and yelling. We actually dealt with this recently. The frustrated child was yelling because they felt like their sibling wasn’t listening. After talking about appropriate ways to express frustration (yelling at people not being one of them), we followed through and talked to the sibling about the importance of active listening and how it hurts people’s feelings when they don’t feel heard. This is only the most recent example. It takes a lot more work on the front end. It would be so much less effort for me to just separate the two kids and have a blanket “no yelling” statement and then move on. But if we had only responded to the behavior of the first child, we would have missed a teaching moment for the second child.

Lastly, we do our best to instill a team spirit into our family culture. I really credit my husband with this one. He loves being part of a team. So we don’t really allow or set the stage for our kids to compete against each other. We tell our kids to use team work to complete a task, whether it’s chores or just playing a game. When calling my kids collectively, I will say “team Sewell, it’s time to go (or what ever).” This, I hope, just gives them the little reminder that we are all on the same team. Always. We don’t pit them against each other – ever. Even when playing games.

I think the big take away is we have decided that healthy sibling relationships are a priority in our family. We put a lot of our parenting energy into this. We tell our kids that they are “forever best friends,” and we mean that with our whole heart.

I would love LOVE to hear how you nurture sibling relationships with you kids. Share what has worked in your family, so we can learn from each other.

Is Survival Mode the New Normal?

Is Survival Mode the New Normal?

I really hope not, but it sure does feel that way sometimes doesn’t it? I don’t know about you, but just when we seem to get into some semblance of a routine that feels comfortable, a curve ball comes our way. Recovering from the virus has taken a lot longer than I wanted, which is SUPER annoying and frustrating. I have dreams of living my best quarantine life, but I’m not physically able to at this point. I was going to clean and declutter all the things. I was going to spend my afternoons getting lost in a great book. I was going to cook new recipes, including perfecting my favorite French macarons. I was going to blog three times a week and post content to Instagram every day. I was going to tackle my kid’s picky eating, and we were going to be loving vegetables in no time. Oh, the plans I had!!

But here’s the thing, friend. None of us have been through a pandemic before. None of us have been in a situation where we’ve had extensive shelter in place orders to follow. We are all going through a collective traumatic experience. There is no play book for this. So, I think it’s vital we give ourselves grace. It’s also vital that we extend that grace to others. It seems to be so common for people to experience good days and hard days. Happy days and sad days. Productive days and lazy days. And that’s okay!

But living in “survival mode” mentality is, quite frankly, exhausting. So, what are we to do? I think the first thing we can do is actively acknowledge that this is hard. Take some deep breaths and just sit with that for a moment. The second thing I think we can do is establish some self care routines, not only for ourselves, but also our partners and children. For example, last week I decided Friday mornings would be my husband’s time for himself. He will go for a long drive, catch up with friends over the phone, or finish up work from the week. The key is that he is off duty as husband and dad for those few hours, and it fills him up so well! He comes back refreshed and revived. Self care for our kids has been interesting. They are young (7, 5, and 2), so like my entire life is caring for them, ha. But, I have bought them more of their favorite snacks since quarantine started. Who doesn’t love comfort food? I also check in with my older 2 kids and really ask them how they are doing with having to stay at home and not see their friends. We have been able to have some really good talks about our feelings, and they feel supported and heard when I tell them that sometimes I am sad too. We make sure they spend time outside at every opportunity when the weather allows it. For me, self care has looked different depending on how I am feeling since I am still healing from covid19. When I was spending a lot of time in bed, I shopped online for a few spring wardrobe additions because it helped me remember that brighter days will come. Now that I am up and about more, I like to go for a quick 20 minute drives a few times a week and blast really the music (…in my minivan, haha!). Whatever self care looks like for you, do it. Because you know what self care really is? It’s a way for us to take care of our mental health, and that is valid and important. You have permission to do what you need to do to recharge and take care of your mental health, mama. It’s true that you might have to get creative with self care, especially if you’re more extroverted. Maybe it’s a zoom coffee date or cocktail hour with your friends. Maybe it’s going on a walk or trying out a new exercise video. Maybe it’s crafting or reading or painting. Whatever it is, you do you mama, because you are worth it!