Dear Rule Followers, Thank You.

If I’ve learned anything throughout this Coronavirus pandemic, it’s that fighting it, is a group effort. There are the obvious fighters like the first responders, healthcare workers, retail employees, truck drivers, and delivery people who are risking their lives to run the world right now. They don’t have the luxury of staying home, and we simply couldn’t do it without them. And then there are the non-visible, less heroic type of fighters, who are quietly and diligently following the rules of social distancing, and helping us all get to the finish line of this crazy situation sooner.

We often praise the front line essential workers for their amazing efforts (as we should continue to do), but we also need to give a shout out to the regular folks who are doing the challenging “work” of staying put. We need to recognize the amazing people who have put forth their best efforts to follow C.D.C. guidelines and not leave their homes unless it is absolutely necessary.

I’m talking about the single people who have endured weeks of solitude with little to no outside world interaction. Also, the folks who have gone a month without visiting their elderly grandparents. The moms who have repeatedly told their children that, no, they can not have a play date with friends. The parents at their breaking point who would love nothing more than to drop the kids off at Grandma’s house, but choose to stay home because it is the right thing to do. The families that choose Zoom meetings over an in person get together for their Easter celebration or little one’s first birthday party.

There are countless people who have been forced to give up vacations, graduations, weddings, proms and other momentous life occasions in an effort to keep all of us safe. They deserve our respect for their sacrifices. But, we also need to recognize those people who have been tempted by opportunities for a quick trip to browse Target or a “harmless evening” with fellow quarantined neighbors, and still managed to make the CHOICE to stay home and put other’s health and safety above their own wants- they are life savers too.

It is so easy to find ways to justify leaving our homes. We are all desperate for our old ways of life and can convince ourselves that our actions “aren’t that bad” or “won’t make a difference.” But, the best way to honor those essential workers who don’t have a choice about whether or not to stay home, is for us to choose to stay put. It’s not easy (doing the right thing rarely is) but is saving us all.

So, thank you to our selfless front line heroes, and thank you to the rule following stay-at-home life savers too. We will beat this thing together.

Thank You note

Keeping It Real: Why I Like People More During the Coronavirus

Canva - Woman Sitting on Wooden Planks

A funny thing has happened since the COVID-19 pandemic has taken over our world. While my interactions with humans (other than my immediate family) have been on average, zero, I have come to see so much good in people lately…from a distance that is. Not just good in the traditional “good deed doer” sense- although there has been plenty of that- I’m looking at you, healthcare workers! I mean good, in the real, raw, “that’s how you should act as a flawed, authentic, human” way.  It’s hard to be “fake” or “phony” when you are in crisis mode.

Throughout my life, I’ve come to realize that my circle of friends stays pretty small and close knit. I may have lots of acquaintances in my day to day activities, but I keep the friend list to a minimum. When I do slide someone new into the friend category, I do it selectively. It has to be someone I consider genuine and able to share their real flaws, emotions, and feelings with me. I don’t know how to do surface or fake friendships well. I am my most uncomfortable in a big group setting where I have to pretend to be interested in someone’s “on” or “polished” version of his or herself. I imagine this is why I work with kids. They are honest to a fault. They tell it like it is. They show every emotion that they feel, which I love.

That is what I’ve noticed about people since this whole Coronavirus things has started. People are scared, frustrated, sad, messy, anxious, and they are expressing it. No one has the energy to pretend to have it all together anymore. No beautifully edited vacation pictures filling up my social media. No perfectly styled family portraits with the caption “they’re my whole world.” And no filtered out version of people dressed up for big events. We are just all hot messes and owning it.

While I would never wish long term suffering on anyone (not even the fakest of fake Kardashians), I can’t help feeling so much more connected to people throughout this whole experience. Whether it’s the common bond of going through such an unprecedented crisis with my fellow human, or the fact that the veil of perfection finally has permission to come off, I can see so much more good in people. We are sharing our fears of job losses. We are commiserating about the hardships of homeschooling. And we are cheering each other up with endless, laugh or you will cry at the situation, memes. We are acting like real people, and it gives me hope.

Quarantine Sanity and Happiness

In the words of Joey Tribbiani, “How you doin?”

No seriously, this new life we’re all experiencing is no joke. The sudden change of all our routines. The abrupt halt of life as we know it. It can take a huge toll on our mental well being. I find myself having moments where I actually mourn my normal, mundane life stuff. Like, remember the good old days when we could run to Target and browse the hand soaps without fear of the National Guard showing up?! Remember when running out of toilet paper was just an inconvenience and not a White House Press conference situation?

I am incredibly grateful for the hard work of healthcare workers, first responders, grocery store employees, truck drivers…(the list goes on and on.) And even though I know how lucky I am to be home with my kiddos during these uncertain times, I still miss my students and the structure of my work life. I’m sad for my boys and this new, weird stay at home situation and all the things they have already missed. And, I’m not going to lie- I’m worried for the future. But, throughout this past week (which, OMG doesn’t it feel like a year?!) there have been moments where I felt optimistic, cheerful and dare I say it, sane. So, I thought I’d share my instances of happy to spread a little positivity, and maybe you all can share some of yours?

What's Making You Happy_ What's Keeping You Sane_

  1. Routine. I have always been a routine, planner kind of girl. And while I don’t have anywhere to go and nothing is on my agenda, just the act of having a morning routine is comforting. I’m up when my kids get up, which is usually around 8:00 AM. I put on fresh clothes, make their breakfast, and sit with a cup of coffee. It’s similar to our weekday routine, but less rushed and more enjoyable.
  2. Exercise. Thankfully I’m an at home workout person anyway. Just keeping up with my normal routine of exercise (yoga practice, bike rides, walks) has really helped my mental state.
  3. Making a to-do list. I have loved to-do lists since I was a child. I keep making lists to keep my sanity. Sometimes my lists are simple (laundry, take chicken out of the freezer, etc.) and other times they are inspired by my kids. We create our “what do we want to do today?” list together and it gives us a purpose and plan for the hours ahead that can feel a little endless at times.
  4. Creative Outlets. I go a little stir crazy without a project to work on. Having something to write or an activity to plan for my kids helps me tremendously. Recently I have been creating virtual lesson plans for my students and it has been surprisingly enjoyable.
  5. Getting outside. We are so lucky to live in the South where we can spend our time doing outside chores and play. Today I went for a walk while listening to an audio book and it completely transformed my mood.
  6. Talking to my friends. My text message game has been strong lately. Whether it’s sharing funny memes or checking in with my besties, having that space to vent has been so helpful.
  7. Watching my kids play. Honestly, it’s so nice to have a chance to slooooow down and watch my boys find ways to entertain themselves. I am so impressed with their creativity and what they are able to come up with when they actually have the time to be kids.

So those are my life saving activities for the moment. I’m sure it will evolve as we get deeper into our new social distancing lifestyle. What’s working for you? How are you maintaining your mental health and finding a little joy? Stay safe, sane, and happy, friends!

School is Canceled- Now What? Ideas for Structuring Your Day With Young Kids

School Is cancelled-Now What_

Like most of the world, our school district (and state) recently announced that schools and daycares will be closed for the coming weeks. For some people, this news comes as a relief. For others, this kind of an announcement creates panic at the thought of being stuck at home for weeks on end with young kids. It’s easy to become overwhelmed at the idea of having to entertain children all day long (especially if you can’t leave the house). And, if you’ve ever spent any time with little people, you know that while unstructured time can be welcomed for adults, it can cause chaos in kids.

Canva - Little Boy Blowing Bubbles

Many people end up begging for school to go back in session, often praising the hard work of teachers for being able to put up with mayhem every day. But here’s the thing; the reason teachers are able to survive the day in day out energy level of kids is because our days are meticulously planned. Even “downtime” has a purpose and procedures. We schedule times for movement, creative play, and rest. While I don’t think you have to take this exact approach to your home life, there isn’t an early childhood educator out there that wouldn’t suggest structure and routine as a huge piece of advice for the coming weeks. So how do you make that happen in these weird, unprecedented times with kids?

Whether you are a hardcore planner or a complete free spirit, your best bet for surviving these next coming weeks with young children, is to make structure and planning your thing. You don’t have to be as detailed as a classroom teacher making lesson plans, but giving kids a clear idea of what to expect for the day, will help them thrive (and you keep your sanity.) Make a list together of what you’d like to accomplish.

Canva - Kid Drawing with Crayons

Consider these ideas as a jumping off point of how to fill your day to make sure you are getting in some educational fun (not worksheets or flashcards), not relying too heavily on screen time, and making the most of your time at home with your little ones. 

  • Morning Time: Eat breakfast. Watch morning cartoons. Discuss your plans for the day. Check the weather. Get dressed, brush teeth. Make the bed.
  • Get outside: Go on a bike ride. Play at the park. Do sidewalk chalk. Play with bubbles. Free play! (think recess time at school)
  • Do some science: Plant some new flowers in your garden. Get a bird feeder and record what type of birds come to visit it. Order caterpillars and a butterfly kit to observe. Make slime. Make cloud dough. Make elephant toothpaste. (Pinterest is full of amazing, SIMPLE ideas.)
  • Lunch and reading time: After you eat, schedule in some downtime. Give your kid a laundry basket to sit in and a pile of new books.  Sit together and read your tried and true favorites while listening to calm music. Take a blanket outside and read under a tree.
  • Schedule (limited) screen time: Play an educational app on a device. (Set a timer so they don’t stay on it too long!) Check out some free educational websites. Do an online yoga video for kids. Watch an episode of Magic School Bus, Sid the Science Kid, or Dinosaur Train.
  • STEM challenge: Pull out the Lego bricks and make a building competition out of it. See who can make the tallest tower with Solo Cups. Get the Hot Wheels tracks out and challenge your kiddos to come up with a creative design. Use your dominoes to make a huge set up to record knocking down in slow motion.
  • Food activity: Create a cute snack together. Bake muffins. Decorate cookies. Make smoothies. Pop popcorn on the stove.
  • Creative play: Find your construction paper and crayons. Get out the glitter glue and stickers. Give your kids a big box, scissors and markers and challenge them to turn it into something creative. Get some play-dough and cookie cutters out. Messes are totally okay and it’s how kids learn best! (Just have clean up time built in there too!)
  • Sensory play: Get out the water table and fill it with water, measuring cups and buckets. Order some water beads on Amazon for extra fun. For indoor sensory play, try kinetic sand, rice, or dry beans in a big Rubbermaid container.
  • Play board games: Games such as Chutes and Ladders, Pop the Pig, Hi Ho Cherry-o, and Trouble are fantastic for number practice with little learners.
  • Bath/Shower Time: Use this time to wind down. Add bath bombs. Dump all your toy dinosaurs in the tub. Get out the finger paint soap. Fill the shower with shaving cream. Make silly words with foam alphabet letters stuck to the walls.

I know this unexpected time at home with kids is strange and stressful. Our routines are all off. But, with a little extra planning and thinking ahead, it could just be the extra quality time you didn’t know you needed. Make the most of it, friends!

 

Hand Washing- Not Just for Epidemics!

Wash your hands like a teacher who just touched a mystery substance...

If you’ve spent any time around kids, whether working in schools or hospitals, or raising your own, you’ve had that moment when your hand has come upon a dreaded mystery wet spot. Sometimes it’s a shoe lace. Usually it’s the sleeve of a jacket. And often times, it’s on your own pants. Is it snot? Is it slobber? Is it pee? The possibilities are frighteningly endless. And when one has encountered said nightmare substance, one scrubs her hands until the skin is begging for mercy. Antibacterial soap, hot water, under the nails…like you are prepping for surgery. This, my friends, is the gold standard of how we should all be washing our hands on the regular. And, our kids should be doing the same.

Funny story. I once had a parent share with me that her son was looking forward to homeschooling the following year because “then he wouldn’t have to wash his hands so much.” That’s right y’all, I am a hand washing freak in my classroom (and home.) We wash hands when we enter the room. We wash hands before meals, after meals, after the playground, after group bathroom breaks. We wash hands all.day.long. And we don’t just save our hand washing for flu season or world wide Coronavirus epidemics. We do it every blessed day.

Might I suggest that we all adopt these practices into our daily lives? Whether you are 2 or 102, consider making hand washing your “thing.” Make it the thing that people complain about you. Make it what your friends make fun of you for. And do it like a teacher who just touched a mystery substance.