That First Weekend: March 13-15
When school buildings closed and as the shelter-at-home guidance was put in place, I didn’t immediately feel suffocated.
In fact, the first project I took on was to potty train #5.
Which I did.
Wow, I am so glad I took that on first. Had I set that commitment today in the middle of Week 5, I’m certain she would be running around like a wildling, naked and covered with leaves, sticks, and candy.
Life 5 weeks in looks a lot different from life on Day 1.
Like a bug in a jar, I didn’t use up all my air in the first minutes of the quarantine. Instead, the suffocating feeling would come on gradually. Then it would go on to wax and wane.
Within the week I would begin to wonder how I could survive!
At first I felt like I was sinking!
I wrote about that here.
Then it seemed that some air got in through an unseen hatch from the jar of life I found myself in.
I would go on to find humor in the chaos of some of it and to do a fair job of taking my husband’s advice to “roll with it.”
In fact, we came up with a list after week 1, which I shared.
Did I tell you my ability to follow that advice lasted about three days?
There is just absolutely SO MUCH I could share.
As I have pondered the ins and outs and ups and downs of the last month, I thought I’d share just some of the treks and traps I ran both along and into. But I need to catch you up, so let’s go back to the beginning of week 1.
Grab your favorite blanket, a tissue to laugh or cry with and your favorite drink because I’ve got four weeks to download.
Week 1: March 16-20
This was THE BEST WEEK.
Unless a better week is coming, which I can’t tell you right now as we are still living in it.
This week was full of absolutely everything fun.
Although it rained several days, we hunkered down in the dark of our rain-dimmed home and enjoyed the freedom to do water capacity and sugar-density experiments. We did chlorophyll rubbings. We chopped up plants and flowers and bushes for some free-for-all St. Patty’s day artwork. We traipsed around the house at all hours in all manner of attire.
It was a dream come true! I was homeschooling!
I was the pioneer mom I had always dreamed of! We baked bread and fried bacon. Christian made whipped butter and bread formed with the help of a Kitchen Aid. Banana chocolate chip muffins sat in parchment paper muffin cups. Homemade waffles rested on air-drying racks. Flowers from the yard danced on the island. And I donned my favorite frog-faced apron from college that still bears my maiden name.
That weekend I continued to fill the kids’ days with projects and experiments and school. When one of the younger kids asked me why we were doing school on Sunday, I laughed at him and said, “We aren’t doing school, silly! We are doing funtivities!”
I should have listened to that little voice.
Week 2: March 23-29
If there is one thing I cannot complain about it, it’s that I never have to worry about my kids being up before me.
They will sleep until 7 or stay in their rooms like trained soldiers, which they are. Thanks to my husband who values our bed and the threshold between the hallway and our bedroom, we rarely have so much as a toe cross into our bedroom.
But quarantine life messed my routines up. I found myself sleeping more and staying up late from the beginning. Without my every other day swim alarm, I was staying up late. Every night. And eating like it was vacation. Let me reword that. Eating like goldfish plants (the food not the fish) were also going into lock down. Like I would never see a goldfish cracker ever again. I was eating like goldfish were going down.
So I had no bedtime schedule. No wake up schedule. No exercise schedule. No eating schedule. No prayer schedule. No Bible schedule. Everything was simply cancelled.
And that’s when the blur of fundamentals began. Soon after, the fun began to ebb and the work began to flow, although it’s only now I see that marked the rising of stress. I thought I was containing it, but I was really just conducting it.
For example, that week I whipped myself and the kids into gear by plastering CoVID-19 schedules up and producing tedious subject-by-subject agendas. “This is so fun,” I remarked to some friends. “The kids wake up before me and run downstairs to see what’s on the schedule and start getting things done.”
(This lesson plan actually is from Week 3 and represents iteration 2 of 4)
Except that only lasted a few days. By that I mean them running down to get things done. Soon they began inching downstairs one by one, climbing into crevices of the couch, and burrowing themselves into blankets, secreting remotes into the cushions, and driving me nuts as they resisted my best laid plans.
The schedule is master!
I had in mind we would continue schooling right through the week despite the fact that it was supposed to be Spring Break. “Wasn’t last week kind of like Spring Break since we weren’t in school?” I reasoned.
But one day and one subtract-by-addition problem in to my second-grader’s math, I called it quits. For the whole week. I shut it down. I shut the stress down by stopping the source of it.
Which was okay because we were supposed to be off anyway.
In response, I felt a lightning, a lifting up.
Margin appeared with the lightning. Perhaps like a ship lightened of its cargo, I was lifted up. The storm clouds cleared. Without the expectations of getting school work done, the fun resumed.
The highlight of the week was the dog turning 2, which we celebrated by making and eating pup cakes.
But the fun can only last so long, because even safe in our homes under our shelter-at-home order, real life must go on.
Some real life came to the surface. At the end of the week Christian doffed his beard. (Does that work? With all the donning and doffing of PPE, I thought it was an appropriate extension. Insert laughter everyone please.)
That was hilarious. Until it wasn’t. But more about that later.
At the end of the week, there was a tornado. It didn’t affect us in our home, but a couple miles away from us it was a different story. Suffice it say, we ordered a weather radio, flashlights, a lantern, and an emergency hammer device so that we are more prepared for any future tornadoes. Nothing like a tornado during a pandemic to sharpen your sense of preparedness….
Week 3: March 31-April 3
Six expectation-less days were a kind of bliss for me, although they weren’t truly free of self-expectations. I whirred about printing off daily agendas, timing activities, scrolling for experiments, basically buzzing about the interweb for the next thing to occupy five little minds, two of whom were unoccupiable.
I also met in a few women’s groups via video chat.
That was horrifying. Not for them. But for me. I found myself unmotivated, guilt-stricken, and to be honest, not a little disheveled. What’s more, I felt ultra-incompetent. I felt paralyzed. I’m not sure how much of those feelings translated across the glory called Zoom, but I swallowed the words and waited for ideas to appear.
Where were all the ideas that normally shot around my mind like mini-missiles? Why did I feel ultra vulnerable and exposed? I was unable to put my finger on it, but I was suddenly incapable of committing. To anything.
“So include me,” I told everyone, “but I’m not sure what exactly I can ‘do.'”
Meanwhile children thronged me every minute. I found myself slapping the CoVID-19 schedule on the wall and asking if anyone else around here respected quiet time. Quiet time meant no one talks. Translation, no one breathes or makes noise anywhere near my neck, face, or ears. Especially ears.
We slugged colored water around from casserole dish to mason jar all week, dunking Lego mini figures and assaulting the living room couch by tearing off the pillows daily. By we, I mean them, and I sat unmoving in the kitchen watching with an ember-warmed cup of 8-hour-old coffee staring back at me.
Between water-sloshing and pillow defeathering, the kids and I chalked up the driveway, collected samples of nature from the yard to create mandala art, and laughed our heads off as the kids tried out British accents. But if Quinn says, “I put my butt in your boot” one more time, I might just commit myself…
I have to tell you one thing that has vastly helped my sanity has been art. Oh art!
I asked God a few times where He was, as if He was checking out for awhile as I clumsily handled the house, the laundry, and the kids. I wondered a few times at his purpose of layering on the stress of sorting through websites, passwords, and school IDs times three. On one device. Well, two if you count my phone, but it’s hard to count that when it was constantly at 2-4% battery life due to said constant scrolling.
By the way, God didn’t answer me in words. Yet.
I plodded on, smiling at my neighbor as she chased her biking children across Vann Road. “How are others doing?” I wondered. One second later that thought was pushed out by thronging children. Bed pillows are now in the backyard, stuffed not with pillows, but with toys, blankets, and other soft things.
Pillow fight in the back yard? Sure! My new rule was if it didn’t threaten to kill you or someone else, go for it. Band-Aid anyone? Sure, have 10.
Another tower of commitment to fall was fitness. Friends of mine had invited me to do a fun 21-day exercise challenge, which I had initially been excited about but suddenly found overwhelming.
I was desperately afraid they would find out I was not only having a hard time fitting it in, but worse, that I was unfun and unchallengeable. That’s right. I said it. Unfun. Unchallengeable. You’re not wrong. I started making up words.
I wasn’t the only one whose stress was exponentially growing.
(Which side note, is someone else already writing a book called Stressdemic, the corollary to the current crisis caused by the rule and reign of the Coronavirus? If not, I call dibs.)
I heard from a few ladies in groups I am involved in that other moms were having high and low days the first couple weeks, but that that had transitioned to high and low moments throughout the day, and now into high and low moments throughout the HOUR.
No wonder I couldn’t commit to a 30-minute workout. So to stop that stress source, I cut the fitness plan and I started walking around the block instead.
And no one judged me.
Hiding my unruly hair and unmakeup-ed face under a hat
The Weekend: April 4-5
Over the weekend I surprised my husband with the silent treatment after he made a suggestion about my day/work flow that Friday. I didn’t explain to him I was doing this. I simply melted into a book for 10 hours. It was glorious. The book. The silent treatment wasn’t such a good idea.
He isn’t a mind reader. I’m not either, although I pretend to be. Like EVERY SINGLE TIME I get mad at him when he doesn’t read my mind that I’m mad.
You can imagine and you probably already know so I don’t really have to explain how my silent treatment over a few words evolved into enough qualms and insults to fill and set off your volcanic mount of choice.
By Sunday, I decided to let him in on the crisis in my mind. The pressing-in of children and the cumulative days of being stuck were affecting me.
My new pioneer life was actively falling apart.
One of the hardest things for me to deal with was the fact that every time I looked at him I did a double take. Beardless, I was struggling to recognize the only other adult in my house. It didn’t matter that it had been days and days, I still was adjusting.
Anyone else who has experienced a husband’s de-bearding and the psychological impact chime in. Is there a study on that somewhere????
Can someone please tell me who this is?
Week 4: April 6-10
The email flashed across my watch and phone simultaneously. Even though I could barely stand sound, I still hadn’t changed my digital notifications. Maybe I should….The email drove me upstairs into my retreat, my bedroom, where I shut the door, thankful for a split second that my husband was home so I could escape.
I had been asked (and was eager) to participate in a Zoom recording, but on seeing the email of expectation, my heart became a lump of clay and dropped into the chasms there. Horrified at the resistance and chaos I sensed rising up, I sent off a quick message to a mentor.
“How’s your week going? I’m very overwhelmed…” I used all the formal, polite words to describe my chaotic, unraveling self. “How about you?” I desperately hoped for a “Me too!” reply to set myself at ease.
Instead, she let me know she was getting on by removing expectations from her day.
Ugh. How? I pummeled my face into the pillow a few times and rolled into what I imagine looks a bit like a half-grown whale, using my comforter as a human-sized burrito in my attempt to bury and hide myself for the next hour, or day, or week… whatever would console.
Her other words were words of encouragement, words I saw through stress-glazed eyes, “I do suspect that [God] is giving you everything you need…” I tried to push them into my consciousness.
“Land!” I silently yelled at those words. I wrestled a little longer with the comforter and my pillow and eventually took a break.
Sometimes you just have to take a break.
That was my emotional peak.
Mid-week, Wednesday hit. I wasn’t new, but I was hopeful. Deciding some time to myself was in order, I grabbed my snow hat (because it felt snow-cold) and decided to go for a walk.
I pushed play on my BSF lecture and listened to talk of divine confinement and CoVID-19 theology. Beautiful, new, shiny phrases, made up of a combination of both ordinary and novel words.
Divine confinement. These words glittered in my mind, sitting like stars in my head. They scattered the scuttle of negative thoughts. As I walked the neighborhood I felt hope. God wasn’t speaking in an out-loud way, but He was speaking. And through the gift of words of truth, I received a taste of it!
God had divinely orchestrated my life.
His words were landing.
He had prepared me for this. He was preparing me for the things coming next. And though I didn’t know the purpose of 2020 or what was coming next, I recognized then that He knows. He had appointed them. And He would use my very circumstances and responses to prepare and empower me for those purposes.
If I said yes.
That Wednesday marked a kind of turning point.
I began to cling to tools at my finger tips, like the online church group for women I was helping with, and my BSF leader friends and group, my family, and my husband, whose own story I have not even scratched the surface of nor probably until this thing is months if not years behind us.
As I clung to those things, I let go of the other things I had been trying to control.
At His nudging, I did a few other important things that day.
To start I found an old cross necklace I had, and I put it on. If I was learning anything, it was that I needed a physical reminder to stay in tune with God. And that was going to take something simple and something constant. How about a cross?
Feeling the small imprint of the cool metal emblem around my neck had the opposite effect on me that the cloistering of my children had. What’s more, as I went from thing to thing, the cross clung to me and reminded me to take a breath, to pray, to be thankful, to praise God for something good in the moment, and to offer him the different variants of hard that were surfacing.
The cross was reminding me that every moment I had a choice to die to myself. Not just the big moments of stress, but all of the minor ones too.
We did zero school that day. By then I had ditched the daily agendas, trading those out for white boards. I let the kids come up with their own agendas based on what assignments they had in their packets. They were responsible enough to do that with a little guidance.
We had fallen off using the CoVID-19 schedule week 3, which I hadn’t even realized until that moment. To celebrate, I tore the rest of the schedules off the wall and tossed them into recycling. In their place I tacked up six colorful clipboards. I let the kids put their projects and plans on their own clipboards.
Pretty. Simple. Forward-Moving.
CoVID-19 might have plunged me into a new kind of hard, but it’s also refining me in many ways.
Here is a chance for me to be more intentional with my family.
Here is a chance to withdraw guilt-free into the daily happenings of my home and fully invest and unleash within secure walls.
Here is an opportunity to work on a hobby, help with an emerging community need, reassess gifts and love-languages and communication styles.
It’s not a call to productivity or even a time for intense fitness efforts for me; rather, it’s a call to rest, reset, and revisit all that God has been planting.
I think a harvest is coming. I’m not sure what.
Pioneer Mom is becoming a little more resilient.
A little less terrified.
…A little more free.
To be continued…