Cabin Calm

There’s something about being up North at the cabin that allows your mind and body to enter a simpler state of calm, ease, and presence. It doesn’t happen immediately. It takes time to remember how to slow down and breathe, especially after being quarantined in your home with your husband and three children for over eight weeks. Maybe for some families it has been a time of connection and relaxation, but it doesn’t seem that way for us.

With the kids at home all the time it has felt like we are constantly just trying to keep up with laundry, groceries, meals, washing dishes, school work, and an assortment of chores that never seem to end. Having everyone in the house all the time has often left me feeling more exhausted than connected. By the time my youngest is in bed I have nothing left to give and am ready for some quiet time to myself rather than connecting with anyone else. Then it’s lights out and we do the same thing all over again.

For some reason the cabin feels different. It feels like we are on vacation from all the expectations that weigh us down at home. We can individually take more time to do what we love. We can all get a little more space. Everything slows down up here. The days feel longer and so much quieter. The sibling arguing is non-existent at the moment as we all take time to rest and fill ourselves up. Unlike our house, the cabin has an open floor plan, which also seems to add to the feeling of togetherness.

My husband got up early and went fishing this morning. I had time to make pancakes and read a book. My teens rode their bikes 14 miles round trip to the little store, something they’ve never done before. We gave them permission to go ahead and explore beyond their previous boundaries, a memory I’m sure they will never forget.

My youngest collected acorns. I saw him grabbing handfuls of sunflower seeds out of Grandpa’s bird feeder. I was about to yell at him to stop, but I paused and looked at his face. He was so in the moment, making a special concoction for the birds. I just sat and watched him. He found a container and mixed his acorns with the sunflower seeds. He stirred them with his hands and tried to crack the acorns open. Then he sprinkled them around the deck for the squirrels and birds. He saw me watching through the window and proudly smiled and waved. I was glad I didn’t disturb his creative flow.

Next my son got on his bike and we made it halfway down the driveway together. He jumped off to stop and feel the sand. He wanted me to stop and feel it too, so I reached down and rubbed my hand in the sand. He was right, it was super soft. We continued on. I was hoping to get in a good walk while he rode his bike, but he stopped at the end of the driveway. He got off his bike and plopped himself down on a dirt path.

I stood over him for a few minutes. I thought of hurrying him along, but instead I decided to sit and join him. He collected more acorns, buried them, and watched the ants crawl around. We sat there for a very long time. An old memory flashed through my head from when I was a little girl. I used to be just like him, enthralled with watching and collecting ants on our driveway for hours.

As parents life seems to get so busy and complicated. All we really need to do is slow down, be present, and allow everyone to have time to fill themselves up doing something they love. Tonight we will put the youngest to bed early and watch a movie together with the teens. Usually I would be too tired to do this, but tonight I am looking forward to it.

Now I just need to figure out how to bottle up the best parts of our north woods experience and bring it home with me!

~Do Bettter & Shine

Quarantine Birthdays

My daughter was lucky. She turned 15 on March 3rd, before our concern for COVID-19 hit. My sons were not quite as lucky, they both had birthdays that will go down in history. Their birthdays were April 1st and April 6th. Quarantine birthdays. It’s crazy how birthdays only one month apart can feel like a completely different lifetime.

For my daughter’s birthday we were able to sneak away for the day for some mother-daughter time. We went to Caribou first, which is always a great way to start the day. Then we went to the mall and just spent hours leisurely walking from store to store, enjoying our time together. We arrived when the mall opened in the morning and the day flew by quickly. When we realized it was already late afternoon we made our way to a small Russian restaurant.

My daughter was adopted from Russia and chose to celebrate her birthday with Russian food, which I thought was a great idea. We enjoyed being adventurous and trying all sorts of new foods. We had an amazing day together, just the two of us enjoying some much needed time girl time and getting out of the house.

Fast forward from the beginning of March to the beginning of April. These next two birthdays for my sons felt like no other. They had no choice about inviting friends, dining out, or going to fun places. We have been on quarantine for three weeks now and we are all craving a little more excitement, but we decided to go ahead and celebrate the quarantine birthdays anyway.

It is really hard to let go of ideas about what a birthday party should look like. We want our kids to be happy and have a party they will always remember. We want smiley pictures for their scrapbook. We want them to be able to look back and have fond memories when they are older. We want them to feel special and loved.

It’s funny how parents get caught up in their own stories. Some have memories of their childhood birthdays and want to make sure their children’s birthdays are just as special. Some don’t have the fond memories, so they want to do everything possible to make sure their children’s birthdays are better than theirs were. Either way, we usually think we have the child’s best interest in mind.

Here’s the thing, I don’t think kids actually care so much about all the hoopla. Kids just want us to be there for them. They want us to be completely present with them. This becomes almost impossible to do while concentrating on all the usual birthday hoopla. Parents with the best intentions end up being the ones who miss out because they are so distracted. When this happens, kids lose too. They lose their parents presence.

We have to get these crazy ideals out of our heads. My husband and I both risked our lives going to stores to get items we thought we MUST have for a birthday party. I went to Walmart first, sanitized my cart, then proceeded to walk through the isles as people passed me with their facemasks on. This was my first time out in a few weeks, so I didn’t even know what to expect. It never even dawned on me to wear a mask grocery shopping, but next time I will. As I found myself holding my breath in the store I suddenly felt like germs were everywhere. I tried not to breathe anything in. All this for a birthday cake.

I thought to myself, “This is crazy! What am I even doing here? What is more important healthy parents or a birthday cake?” Oh, the stories we have in our heads about the way things need to be. I could have turned around and walked out, but I didn’t. I risked my life so my children would have cake for their birthdays.

Next on my agenda was balloons, plastic tablecloths, birthday napkins and paper plates. So instead of going home I risked my life even further by going to the Dollar Store. What is a birthday party without decorations? Again, in the big picture, would my kids rather have healthy parents or balloons and partyware? We really need to rethink these stories. My husband was just as bad. His love language is gifts so he went to the local bike store to purchase a bike for my five-year old. The story in his head is that his child will not feel special without an amazing gift. All this shopping right in the midst of a pandemic. Kind of crazy!

We could have stopped there, but what is a party without grandparents? My parents have done a great job of following the quarantine rules up until this point. They are in their late 70’s. We invited them over because that’s what we usually do. We planned for everyone to stay outside and tried to stay 6-feet apart at all times, but there were a few times we broke the 6-foot rule by mistake. I hope a few careless moments don’t get my parents sick. What is more important- grandparents at your party or healthy grandparents? We are such creatures of habit and my parents felt they needed to be here in real time. That’s how grandparents show their love.

I hope you learn from the mistakes we made. If you are a parent and your child has an upcoming birthday go ahead and celebrate. It doesn’t have to look like all of their other birthdays. Keep it as simple as possible this year. Your number one priority right now is safety for yourself and your family. What your child needs most this year is healthy parents and a healthy family.

A healthy family is so much more important than presents and cake. Your child wouldn’t trade you for anything in the world. Your child just wants to be seen by you and have you spend time with them in their world. Relax about all the party details and spend that time connecting with your child instead. I guarantee it will make your child feel happy and special, even without all the hoopla.

Do Better & Shine

Distance Learning Day 1 ~Quarantine Day 14

So I am happy to report that our family has survived 14 days in quarantine together. I feel like I’ve been in this place before, minus the virus. Being a stay at home mom is a little like quarantine, especially living in Minnesota during the winter months. I have also been a homeschool mom for many years, so I feel like I am just travelling back in time. The only difference is that my sweet young kids who I used to homeschool are now teenagers.

So we started quarantine off with two strict family rules that applied to everyone. Even the dog.

Rule#1 Go outside before lunch

Rule#2 Go outside before dinner

These two rules were to ensure everyone’s sanity and I enforced them like a police officer. I made sure these two items were checked off our list on a daily basis, rain or shine.

My teens would roll out of bed around 11 am or so which was becoming their new routine. They would stay up late, raid the refrigerator after I was in bed, watch movies, and sleep late. Not a bad way to spend a two week “Spring Break”. As soon as I caught sight of them in the late morning though, after already being up for five hours with my preschooler, I would snap at them to grab some breakfast and get outside. I also knew I needed to keep everyone mentally healthy to survive this together. Plus I needed some babysitters so I could get my own morning walk in and have my only moment of solitude for the day.

I can’t say my kids accomplished a whole lot in these two weeks. My preschooler was probably the most productive of any of us. My older kids were either outside, on their phones, or on their computers. I spent most of my time managing everyone, but at least I also started an online course. I am proud of myself for that small feat, which I usually finish after the kids are in bed.

It sounds like some people have focused on decluttering since they are bored. I can’t say that I have ever had time to be bored and I really hate when I hear my kids say they are bored. I feel like I have so many things I’d like to do, if only I could have more uninterrupted time.

I realized my time for getting things done would come to an abrupt end today since distance learning was beginning so I started a decluttering craze on Saturday and it continued into Sunday. I was just going through old files that I haven’t looked at in far too long, just one of those things I have always put off. Maybe I was just trying to gain more control over what I can do inside my house, since everything is so out of control on the outside.

I thought that if our house could be organized online school would go so much smoother. Well, when you start decluttering, sometimes it just makes a bigger mess. And when you have three children and a husband who do not help in your weekend declutter craze, well sometimes things don’t quite get done. So here we are today, decluttering not close to complete and school work, well I wouldn’t say that got completed today either.

It takes a while for my kids to get in the swing of my rules, but the one thing that did stick with them is to go outside in the morning and afternoon. Their computers sat empty most of this beautiful sixty degree day. I’m glad they have the flexibility to take breaks, but today was definitely more outside time than inside. I’m all for daily exercise and mental health breaks, but they took it to the extreme.

Tomorrow it’s time to get back in the swing of things again. It took us two weeks to get accustomed to quarantine life, I’m sure it will take us another two to get accustomed to quarantine plus distance learning life. After today, I realize I need to start setting my alarm again so I can have time to myself before my kids get up.

Distance Learning is going to be a challenge. It will be a challenge for the teachers, the parents and the students. We are all in this together and we need to give everyone grace. We are all living this new normal and every family has their own unique challenges right now. Teachers, I promise to do my best to make sure my kids are completing their work, but I only have so much time in my day to watch over their every move.

We are all doing the best we can each and every day. That will just have to be enough. I thought the first day of quarantine was rough, but we eventually started to get into a groove that worked for our family. All of our days became the same. There was no such thing as a weekend anymore.

I think getting used to distance learning will be similar. Today was a rough start for being able to focus and complete work, but I know we will eventually find our groove again.

We can do this! We will finish the year healthy and strong and come out better on the other side!

Thank you teachers for all of your hard work! We appreciate you more than ever before!

~DO BETTER & Shine