It has officially been one week since we shut ourselves in our house and out from the outside world. We spent the first part of the week just relaxing. The boys were supposed to have Monday and Tuesday off anyways for teacher work days, and Wednesday was a “practice day” for online learning. Then online learning officially began on Thursday and continued on Friday.
The first part of our week was very chill. Thank goodness the boys never asked to go anywhere and I cooked dinner every night so we didn’t have to risk getting takeout from somewhere. Remember, our family is not normal. I will go to any length to protect our superhero. So I heated our pool for the first time ever so the boys could swim and I couldn’t get them out of the pool. They had so much fun and even “recess” during their online learning days was spent in the pool.
So, online learning… it’s going pretty well. My boys love school and they were excited to have school at home. On our ”practice day” of online learning I made up the lesson plans and the rest of the week the plans came from their teachers. Their school has been so amazing in setting up an online community with messages from their teachers. They got everything up and running so quickly it was really wonderful! The lessons they provided helped me feel like the kids are not going to miss out on learning so I am very thankful for that. Even though I never dreamed I would be a stay at home mom, let alone a home school teacher, it is going pretty well. We have had our rough moments and then we also have had our breakthrough moments where I get to be excited about watching them learn, and it truly is rewarding. I am just trying to imitate my mom, the most wonderful teacher I know, when I am helping my kids learn. My mom was a teacher for over 30 years and she was an amazing one! In fact, before I found video production I wanted to be a teacher just like her. I would come to her classroom and help her set up bulletin boards and get the classroom ready for the start of each school year. Even though my passion for videography lead me to a different career choice I kind of always wanted to be a teacher. So this was my chance! Thank you mom for being such an inspiration and whenever I don’t know what to do with the kids I think about what you would do, and how you always made learning fun for your students.
We set up a little classroom complete with a schedule for the day. We start the day with the pledge, a prayer, and the Nativity Mission Statement just like the kids do every day in school. We have a morning lesson, snack, morning activity, recess, lunch, rest time, an afternoon activity or lesson, and then the end of the school day around 3pm. I am not perfect, and the kids have had to adjust, but all in all I’m proud of the way the first 2 days went.
The boys weren’t supposed to have Spring Break until April, however once the school closures happened they decided to move Spring Break to this coming week. This was a smart move to not only give families time to adjust, but also for the teachers to prepare more lessons for online learning. I am thankful their school is such a strong community and I feel supported by the resources they are providing and their teachers being on hand for questions. I am beyond sad that they are missing out on being with their friends and their wonderful teachers, but sometimes life is bigger than us and I think we are all adapting the best we can.
Now that the boys are on Spring Break officially, and Caleb’s birthday is this week, we decided we needed to try to do something fun. With very limited choices, we decided to head to Anna Maria Island to go to the beach. Now, let me explain. We aren’t just “going to the beach” and wouldn’t be able to do that anyway because the public beaches are closed here. We went to my dad and step-mom’s private residence on Anna Maria Island. No one has been in the house for weeks and the beach where their house is is private. There are never many people on it. We packed all our food so we can cook meals and not have to eat out or rely on take out. We just moved our little quarantine headquarters about an hour south for the week. This is our best chance at giving the boys a true “spring break” and giving Caleb a little something fun for his birthday.
So, that is where we are at, and I have had a lot of thoughts about this whole COVID-19 situation. I have watched various reactions from people around me come in waves… some in panic, some acting with caution, and others not worried at all. And although I don’t judge anyone for their actions, I am strong with the belief that for my family, our extreme quarantine is what we had to do for Caleb. As someone who has been through this type of isolation before let me tell you it’s lonely, it’s hard, and there are days when you wonder if it’s ever going to end. And slowly as the days have gone on I have watched most of America go through the same thing I went through a year and a half ago when Caleb was diagnosed with cancer. So I hope maybe my following words will help put it in perspective to help someone through if they are struggling.
There are stages to accepting that your life is forever changed by something you can not control. Whether you are hiding out in a cabin in the woods, going to work out of necessity, or just going about your day like nothing is happening… the truth is something very different is happening and we will all never be the same.
The first step is grief. Take a minute to grieve the life you had because you don’t have it anymore. Take a moment to get mad, sad, or angry. Let yourself go there, it’s ok to feel whatever you are feeling. You might be mad you lost your job, or mad that your kids are home from school and you can’t work, or sad that there are no more sports teams playing this year. However serious or however trivial it’s ok to feel how you are feeling. Take a moment and have a break down. I did. I sat in my room for a straight hour and cried. I was grieving the loss of a life I was so close to having back. I was about to have Caleb back in school, start training for a marathon, figure out my next career move, and unpack the boxes upstairs that are still packed from before Caleb’s cancer diagnosis. BUT, now with the Coronavirus and school being cancelled, all of those plans will have to wait… AGAIN. I have been waiting 18 months for those plans to come to fruition and now, because of a virus, because of something out of my control, I have to wait LONGER. I get panic attacks, and this was a big one. I thought I was going to lose my mind when it all hit me and I processed what was actually happening in our world.
But then the next step came, acceptance. Just as before I had to accept the news of Caleb’s cancer diagnosis, I had to accept what was happening in our world. I had to accept the kids will be home with me. I had to accept that I will be their teacher. I had to accept that all the events we had planned, including Caleb’s birthday party and Caleb’s Make A Wish Trip, were now cancelled or postponed. I did not ask for this life, but I had to accept it and understand that there are bigger things than me happening in the world. I may not understand it but finding peace with it is the only way to make it through.
And finally, I had to think of all the things I was grateful for. I am thankful for my 2 beautiful children and my amazing husband. I am grateful to be quarantined to our house with a pool and a playground and not in our small apartment in Memphis like we were for almost a year. I had to be grateful for our supportive family. I am grateful that once again James is able to keep his job through this situation unlike so many others who are being laid off. And on and on… I am grateful for so many things! With all those things in mind, I dried my tears, put myself back together, and decided I am going to be the best mother/teacher/wife that I can be through this whole Coronavirus Pandemic. I will be strong for my kids and accept the things I can not change. I will be honest with them and try to explain things the best I can. And on the days that are long and I am exhausted I will try to find strength for them.
I don’t know what the next few weeks hold, but as long as my family is safe and healthy I can handle whatever comes my way. I will once again look forward to a day in the future when my family can go to theme parks, out to eat, and heck even to the grocery store, without fear of this virus. There is a bible verse I keep seeing in relation to COVID-19, and that is Joshua 1:9. “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” This is a bible verse I referred to many times during our days at St. Jude, especially the early days when the future was so uncertain. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it has entered my life again now. I know God is with me and will guide me through this.