When Life Gives You Contrast, LISTEN!

I started quarantine so strong, but this past week I have been slowly dying. If I look closely at my behavior patterns though, I’ve been struggling far more than a week. On week one I pumped myself up for survival. I planned to go for walks twice a day, do my yoga, take my vitamins, and go to bed early. Somewhere within these past six weeks of quarantine now, my good survival habits have slowly started to die. When good habits start to die, your body will slowly follow suit.

I went from eating mostly healthy before quarantine to eating way too many frozen meals of fish sticks and french fries. I went from exercising two to three times per day to zero. I started making excuses that it is too cold outside or that I just don’t have enough time. I stopped organizing my vitamins for the week in my plastic pill container, so I just didn’t take them at all. I went from going to bed at 10 pm to going to bed after midnight every night just to get in a few blissful hours of peace and quiet.

Yesterday my body completely shut down on me. I woke up feeling dizzy, then nauseous with a bad stomach. My first thought was the virus, so I googled my symptoms. “Is dizziness a sign of Covid-19?” It didn’t come up as one of the symptoms. I felt instant relief and knew since I have barely been out of the house it was not likely. I also knew I had not been taking good care of myself and had a feeling my body was trying to get my attention. It worked.

If you’ve ever had vertigo, that’s what it felt like. I stayed in bed the entire day, too weak to move. I think it was just pure exhaustion from doing this mom gig 24/7, without even leaving the house some days for a walk. Throw in some big behaviors from my children and my husband leaving town for five days, it’s enough for anyone’s body to go into shut down. I prayed that with me in bed all day, the rest of my family could survive the day in one piece. As far as I know they did, besides maybe a little too much Tom and Jerry time for my youngest.

By dinner time I rolled out of bed and had a piece of toast. It was a beautiful sixty-five degree day outside, one of the nicest days of spring so far, and I missed it. I made some tea and went outside after dinner to get some fresh air. I vowed to myself to make some big changes. I felt horrible all day and was no good to anyone. I decided moving forward I will do everything I can to never feel that miserable again. I know I brought it on myself and I would have to make it go away by myself too.

Last night I was still really tired, even after sleeping all day. I went to bed at 10 pm instead of midnight. I have only eaten clean foods today. I took my vitamins this morning and went for a walk. I am feeling so much better and thankful it didn’t last more than 24 hours.

Thank you contrast for showing up. I needed you to wake me up and get me back on track. Contrast is never pleasant, but that’s why it works so well. I never want to go back to that feeling and I promise to listen to my body. It’s not the first time contrast has shown up in my life, it shows up often, but not always to such an extreme.

The goal is to listen right away. I let weeks go by, even though I could feel myself becoming more and more exhausted by the day. Contrast was telling me to stop drinking so much coffee and go to bed earlier, but do you think I listened? NO. Then contrast had to get nasty until it got my full attention.

I want to save the rest of you from any pain in your life. If you hear contrast gently tapping at your door, please open the door and hear what it has to say. If contrast keeps knocking and you keep ignoring it, watch out, because sooner or later it will blow your house down!

Stay healthy and take care of you!

Do Better & 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