Processing Big Feelings

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Today was the first time one of the kids expressed sadness and frustration at this virus situation. We spent a lot of times indoors over the winter, so I feel like the kids were kind of adjusted to lots of home time. However, as the sun began to come out more, I know we were all itching for some change.

Elijah (7 years old), was having a bit of a tough morning. We all have those days when it feels like everything keeps going wrong. I held him as he released his big feelings. He then asked when this will be over. He told me he wanted to go to his favorite fun places. Dealing with the unknown is hard for all of us.

After hearing him out and giving him some love, he moved past those feelings and is having a much better day. The boys are playing cars and dinosaurs. We will bake a cookie recipe that Neon picked out. Grandma is going to be over for lunch. After today, friends will be back at their houses again so we can go back to video calling and gaming together. The weather is going to slowly start warming up, although the forecast is all rain.

Looking forward to more of this

I’m aware of the importance validating and empathizing with all the feelings. I’m trying to get my own needs for those things met through my husband, and group chats with friends, so that I can have the energy to hold that space for them. Remembering that my kids are looking to me to set the tone for our home, and I’m trying to keep it fun, interesting, and open for all questions.

Unschooling Today 3/18/2020

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Today was an odd day in the way that my husband worked off and on at home and at work. That’s going to be our new normal some days. I wish he could work all the way at home, but he’s considered essential personnel and even if we get a mandated quarantine, he’ll have to go in some. I’m thankful that means we definitely have a solid income still, but also feeling uneasy being alone as anxiety and tension rise in my area.

After breakfast we watched a live science video put in by our local science guy. It’s lots of fun and we are going to enjoy watching his daily videos during this time. We did a little bit of Cosmic Kids Yoga.

Grandma joined with us again today. The kids are really enjoying having her stay here as often as possible. I’m glad to be able to chat with her and feed her 😁. Words cannot express how much my kids love all their Grandma time. Dexter has basically decided she’s Mom number 2.

The kids enjoyed the donuts she brought. She mentioned that she was a little bored since bingo closed, and Elijah jumped on the chance to play bingo with her at home. I was the caller, while the boys played with her.

Neon joined us after bingo. Her and Elijah played a roblox game together for hours. I put hair chalk in Winter and Grandma’s hair, and Winter put it in mine.

The bestest Grandma

Winter painted Grandma’s nails and she painted his. He was super thrilled about it. He says he’s bei, and of course he is.

I laid Dexter down for a nap. Grandma headed out. I made some lunch while Papa popped in and out. Winter and I played a round of Hoot Owl Hoot. We barely pulled out a win.

We watched some TV. I had a quick chat with Neon and Elijah about cooking creatively with the ingredients in our kitchen and how we might have to be a little more adventurous right now. We talked about the grocery stores not having everything on our list and making our own recipes. I told them what ingredients I had for tonight and we collaborated on a dinner idea.

Myself and the 3 oldest kids played a hand of Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, and then Elijah challenged me to a game of Exploding Kittens. He dominated the round.

I invited Neon to help with dinner and she gladly accepted. As we started prepping Elijah asked to join. So there we were cooking, chatting. It was so nice to just be in that moment. Winter came in and asked for a job too, so I gave him some small tasks like adding spices and pouring some water.

Dinner was enjoyed, and Winter even tried tack beef which was new for him. He gave it a thumbs up. I’m cuddling on the couch with the youngest two, while the oldest two are playing Roblox again. We are about to start our wind down routine, which usually includes books before sleep.

Our days are so normal, but so not at the same time. Such a strange feeling.

Unschooling today 3/16/2020

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I made breakfast and coffee first thing. Then I sat with the boys and we looked at the San Diego Zoo’s live cams for their animals. They are loving their site right now.

After breakfast Grandma came by to sit with the kids so I could try to get the rest of the grocery essentials needed for self isolation time. I’m so thankful we have her and that the kids love spending time with her. It took me 3 stores but I was able to get the basics covered.

When I got home, I had to do some tetras to fit the groceries within our storage areas. I did a quick pick up of the house. Winter helped. The boys love the vacuum.

I laid the baby down for a nap and then made lunch. Neon chatted with me while I made food. We played a few rounds of a quick guessing game together.

We took advantage of some of the cool resources available during this time where most everything is closed. We turned on a live video from our zoo, with a zookeeper doing an animal talk and feeding of the hippos. We watched our local museum do a broadcast of a quick animal talk about the black rat snake. We then watched a cool science experiment video. The kids all enjoyed it.

The kids all did their own thing for a little bit, mostly YouTube I think. Then we did some legos. I asked Elijah to give me a theme and tried to build it. I am not a skilled lego builder 🤣.

The oldest two then played Super Smash Brothers for a little while.

After picking up the dumped legos, I helped my daughter get a book she had been waiting for on the hoopla app. All the libraries are closed, but luckily they had it available for an ebook rental so she didn’t have to wait even longer.

Winter and I drew together. We picked an idea, a face, then took turns drawing pieces of it.

Papa came home from work. He brought in the mail. Elijah had requested to get an eye mask for sleeping, and that came in. He was so happy about it.

Elijah is now playing the switch by himself. The TV is in the magic school bus. Dinner will be quick and easy. I’m sure we will read some of the ebooks I checked out from hoopla before bed too. How is it going for you?

My Anxiety is Not Playing Nice

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As someone who lives with anxiety and depression (which comes and goes but is always looking it seems), I’m trying to set some personal boundaries for myself around how much time I spend on the internet, especially social media right now. From the dismissive posts, to the super panicked ones, to the conspiracy theories. It’s all so much.

I’m trying to just check in with some friends, find the latest update in my state, and see governmental response. My husband is supposed to return to work tomorrow, so I’ll be here with the kids as usual. I don’t want to let myself get sucked in and spiral. Most of the time I’ve managed to just sit with my anxiety and uncertainty, and focus on the next thing I want to do with the kids, but I feel it building.

Last night I got started awake just as I fell asleep. I hate when that happens because it feels so much more difficult to get back to a restful state. I lay between my two youngest children, appreciating their cuddles and warmth. Stuck awake, mind wandering. What will happen? Will the kids suffer? What if we pass it to my mom who is a heart patient? Will we have the food we need? Will I get sick and have to take care of my family so my husband can work? I tell myself to refocus on a peaceful thought, but late at night is when it’s easier to go into a dark place. Eventually I caught a few hours of sleep.

I could feel it this morning though. The anxiety had grown, the lack of sleep like oxygen to its flames. The normal (loud, very loud) noises of my 4 year old were sending me into sensory overload. Every unexpected touch felt like a new sensory assault. My sensory system was in overload. It’s just a short trip to a panic attack from there.

I had finally realized that this is going to be a season of continued isolation. The dark winter months are a challenge for me. Seasonal depression hits hard. Add in financial issues that kept up mostly housebound, and illnesses that canceled at home playdates, and I was feeling desperate for spring. We got a few beautiful, sunny days, I opened my windows and even took a hike. Spring feels like a light at the end of the tunnel.

The tunnel has gotten longer again. With the social distancing practices, which I believe are important, I don’t know where the end of the tunnel even is. I have to continue to make due with flashlights. I know I will, because I have to, I want to. At least, the sun will be out more regardless. Fresh air and warmth will start happening, and I will take full advantage from my yard.

I’m still not sure how to live with the anxiety and not pass the tension to my kids. They pick up on things even when I feel I hide it. We did get a nice snuggle in this morning while watching a movie, and for that I’m thankful. More of those will be needed.

This will certainly be a spring we remember.

Unschooling Today and feeling uneasy about things

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Our state has canceled schools, the museums and libraries are closing, most events have been canceled or postponed. It feels like a time of uncertainty, yet most of my kids are unaware about what’s going on. My oldest knows a bit. We’ve had a talk about rationing toilet paper and getting more creative in the kitchen with what we could find. However, our lives haven’t changed much, since we are at home often anyway.

I’m trying to find the balance of trying to remain aware of the covid-19 updates, yet not become consumed with anxiety and what ifs? It isn’t easy, as I am naturally anxious. It does help me to prepare and think ahead, but it can also take me away from my kids and forget to see the joy. I’m trying to find the good stories, the helpers, the hope as much as trying to keep up with state updates and household needs.

This morning we had a yummy homemade brunch. Good food helps me feel happy. I made pancakes, bacon, fresh whipped cream, and fruit. We had a slow morning, chatting and watching TV.

I did some cleaning up around the house while the kids ran around, watched YouTube, and played games on tablets. The baby got laid down for a nap. Then we all plaid Exploding Kittens and Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza games. Both fill our house with laughter.

Dexter woke up from his nap. Papa and I got the boys ready to play outside. It had snowed today, and I wasn’t too happy to see it. The sunshine has been so uplifting to my soul. But the joy on my 4 year olds face when he saw the snow made me enjoy it too. Papa and Winter built a baby snowman.

Neon drew pictures and quizzed me on her art style while I started dinner. Winter colored and froze some melted snow as an experiment. He pretended it was an ice cream sundae.

Grandma joined us for dinner too. I made a family favorite, chicken Tikka masala. After dinner Elijah challenged Grandma to a game of Mario party. This is out of Grandma’s comfort zone, but she gave it her best.

I sat with Winter while he played with slime and watched fishing videos.

We will likely read some books tonight and watch some more TV. That about sums up our day.

Unschooling today 2/27/2020

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Yesterday was a tough day. Not necessarily as a mother, more a general “life is hard” type of day. I’m thankful that today was much better.

After breakfast, we discovered it was National Pokémon day. We talked a bit about that. Elijah and Neon went to her room to watch videos and chat. Winter, Dexter, and I watched some of Frozen 2.

After I laid Dexter for a nap, I made lunch for everyone. The kids were all sitting around the dinning room and we talked about various topics. Neon drew some Pokémon.

Winter played with some slime, and I did too. It is way more satisfying than I used to think it would be.

Papa got home early today, so I went with the oldest two kids upstairs for a bit. We played exploding kittens with the new expansion pack we just got it.

Papa then took the boys outside to play in the snow. Neon played a game on her computer. I warmed up hot chocolate and got requested snacks.

The boys played, fought, and played some more.

I took Neon to the library to pick out some books she’s been wanting while Papa made a quick snack type dinner. I’m guessing we will read some of what we picked out. Neon wants to show me some videos later and we will probably watch an episode of a show we’ve been watching together.

That about sums up our day today.

Big Messes and Big Fun!

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This story starts off with telling everyone that I mopped my floors a few days ago. Now that might not sound like anything to write home about, but let me be honest, it doesn’t happen often at all. I have a running joke about the reason I don’t mop my floors is because the universe sees it as a challenge to make it dirtier than before within a day. Just ask the full jar of elderberry syrup that crashed onto my sparkling white floors several years ago, just mere hours after mopping. That was the last straw 🤣.

So my floors are mopped with their biannual cleaning, inevitably that same night my toddler dumps an entire pound of very finely ground pink salt all over the place. That’s not even what this is about because I laughed at predictable situation.

The real story is about today. Winter (4 years old) found this dinosaur excavation kit in the playroom closet. The kids were gifted a few of these kits last year, and the bigger kids had done theirs. I knew two things from their experience:

1. The clay dust from these kits get everywhere.

2. It is actually quite difficult to get the little dinosaur and the bones out. It took the big kids several attempts over days, lots of muscle power, and then I think they even gave up on some of it.

I put down a table cloth to catch the clay that I’m betting will be minimal because I’m thinking to myself, “He will probably try for a few minutes before realizing that it’s going to take a long time and then just find something else to do”.

Now I don’t know why I suffered from such delusional thinking. Some traits are absolutely certain about Winter: He loves and thrives on any messy experience. He’s a sensory input seeker to the max. Also, there is very little that can stand in his way once he’s set his mind to something. For one brief moment, I thought maybe he was done. He asked for my help excavating, then his older brothers, the tablecloth was sliding and was abandoned (uh oh!), then his tool broke. He was frustrated for a second but quickly recovered.

I found him some leftover tools from the other kits, and then he invited his little brother to try too. This was so adorable, I made a conscious decision to not even mind the table cloth and accepted this was going to be messy.

This is where the real fun begins. Recognizing that he wasn’t going to be able to uncover everything, he formulated a new plan. Water! I helped him fill a bowl full, and by the time I turned around he had moved to the floor.

At this moment I took a few big breaths and remembered wise words from a Facebook friend, that I’ve seen around unschooling circles about a clean room being a blank canvas. I looked at the joy on his face, I admired his problem solving skills and determination, and then I chose to let go of any anxiety over the mess.

He chatted with me while I wiped down the door and opposite wall (I needed to find something to keep my hands busy while I was staying close). Every single time he found a new bone he ran over to show it to me with so much exuberant pride in his voice. He talked me through every step of his plan, and worked away. When he was finished he told me he must be an archeologist.

When all was said and done, I put him in the bath, put the toddler on my back, and grabbed the broom and steam mop. The floor was absolutely covered as one would guess.

Just one side of the floor

It took me about ten minutes to sweep and mop over this mess (it’s not spotless but that wasn’t a goal). Unusually, I found myself smiling while I mopped. Every time I found a spot with a big chunk of clay left, I visualized his smile on whatever bone was pulled from that piece. I genuinely felt my own joy cleaning up this mess that had filled him with so much happiness while it was being made. Ten minutes was absolutely worth everything this brought to us, our connection, his spirit. It was worth so much more without a doubt.

He is now diligently cleaning out the holes with a toothpick so we can work together to fit the bones into a dinosaur.

Mess often triggers my anxiety, and I do sometimes use that as a reason to say no. I am intentionally working on that trigger, because although I want to consider my needs too, these kids aren’t responsible for fulfilling my needs. It’s my work to figure out why this bothers me, and come up with a plan that works for all of us. Mess is inevitable with kids anyway, and Winter isn’t living his best life without fulfilling his need to touch, expire, create, and make messes.

Future messy activities will still bother me, but maybe a little bit less each time I move through the experience consciously.

How kids melt your heart

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So I’m taking a super quick shower, when I hear knocking at the door. I can tell it’s my 4 year old, but I can’t make out his words. I yell “Go ask Papa, I’ll be out in a minute.”

He comes back a second time, and I still can’t understand what he’s saying. Honestly, I’m feeling a little annoyed that he has escaped his Papa’s notice and is banging at the door. The thought of “Can’t you just leave me alone for ten minutes?” is what passes through my mind. I take a breath and turn off the water when this paper slips under the door, followed by a little giggle.

“Oh, what is this?” I ask through the door.
“I made you a picture.”
“What does it say?”
“It says I love you Mommy”.

These kids have the biggest hearts I tell ya. I instantly felt all annoyance slip away.

Embracing who you are

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A few days ago we were out at a public event. There was a few kids around ages 6-14. My daughter was having a good chat about pokemon with a girl around her age (9) and a young teenage boy. They were all having a good time, when the boy commented something along the lines of “you’re allowed to like that stuff right now, but wait until middle school and the kids will tease you for it so you have to stop.”

My heart felt so heavy for him, and past young me who didn’t feel confident embracing who I was, and for all the kids that have felt this immense pressure to be someone else, and to not stand out. My daughter stared blankly at him, confused. My 7 year old son piped up “We get to like what we want”.

I’m 31 and just now coming back around to rocking my “weird” interests. I feel no more shame in being different or being labeled a nerd or whatever else. I am so thankful to not put my kids in an environment that discourages them to be themselves, to find what they like, to change their minds when they want to. No race to be the best, most popular, or the most on top of the ever changing trends.

A Super Important Mission

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Winter (4 years old) was having a tough afternoon. He was overtired and probably hungry looking back on it. He was on full on wild feral mode.

I was trying to put away groceries and start dinner when the eggs I just got at the store dropped and the majority broke. I absolutely need eggs and was frustrated. I sent my husband back to the store to grab some, but he had to take Winter. No way I’d be able to cook dinner with Winter’s state and Dexter while he was gone.

Knowing they were in for a tough trip, I tried to think of a way to set the trip up for success. I pulled Winter to the side and whispered “I have a super secret mission for you.” He was immediately intrigued. I continued, “At the grocery today I forgot something very important that you asked me to put on our list. I forgot Rainbow Ice cream.”

The day before, he had suddenly brought up the Superman ice cream he had eaten at a firefighters fundraiser back in August. He talked about it all day, so I had added some to my list.

Back to our conversation, I told him” Rainbow ice cream isn’t so easy to find sometimes. It’s like a super mission. Do you want to go to the store and help Papa?” His eyes filled with excitement as he started talking about the ice cream again. He was ready to accept his mission. He quickly cooperated in a manner he wasn’t capable of a few minutes before.

I thought the job was done there. I knew they now had their best chance for a smooth trip. But of course, life is rarely like that. I get a panicked text from my husband saying the store doesn’t have any rainbow ice cream like he wants. Thinking in my feet, I tell him to offer rainbow sherbet. That too was quickly rejected. “Superman ice cream has all the colors! ” Winter would say. Mission failed. I told hubby to tell him we would search for a store that carried it this week.

I thought that was that, until I called a few minutes later to see if they were on their way home. Mark and Winter had not accepted their mission defeat so easily however, and they were at a second store. Surprised, I wished them luck.

I finished dinner and served everyone at home, and set plates aside for Mark and Winter. They walked in the door, rainbow ice cream in hand after THREE stores. Winter ran to me to tell me he had completed his mission, and helped Papa not to forget what he came to the store for too!

I’ve never purchased a bucket of ice cream like this for our home before. We usually go for more homemade ice cream, but I looked at it and thought about how hard my husband worked to make sure Winter got it. I think about how determined Winter was to get it, and how having a goal turned his mood around. I am thankful that I bent down and offered that connection to him amidst the chaos and frustration I was feeling, and likely he was feeling too.