Sounds That Soothe Me – by Jacen Sherwood (Age 9)

Here are some sounds that keep me calm. One sound that keeps me calm are the soothing sounds of thunder. The second sound that calms me down is the faint sounds of the whistling winds. The third sound that calms me down is “Asriel’s theme” from ‘Undertale.’ And the fourth and final sound that calms me down is the nice sounds of crickets. And those were some sounds that keep me calm.

What kinds of sounds keep you calm, or help manage your anxiety? Let us know in the comments!

  • Jacen

My COVID-19 Tips to Retain Mama’s Sanity

This is a rough time for everyone. Our routines are all jacked up, we miss friends and family, and we are all adjusting to staying home. Sometimes my kids are confused, and they ask questions. More importantly though, sometimes I am confused and I don’t know how to answer. At first I thought I was failing them, but now I realize it’s okay to not know all the answers. This is real life, and it’s a time where we can prepare our kids for the future by setting a good example. During my internship I once had a doctor tell me, “It’s okay not to know all the answers. The important part is knowing how to FIND the correct answers.” You are only human, so be honest. It’s okay to say ‘I don’t know’ when it’s the truth. Learn together, stay calm together, and grow together.

Distance learning is hard on everyone- there are distractions everywhere!

My Tips for Mama:

Girl, this is not what you signed up for. It’s frustrating to multi-task working at home and keep up with the kids’ “distance learning.” We never imagined a time that we couldn’t escape to Target, and wander the aisles with our mocha frappuccino. This is intense. It’s 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and we have no end date. This is an especially important time to take care of YOURSELF and ask for help when you need it. 

What’s my favorite phrase, Mama? Let’s say it together: YOU CAN’T POUR FROM AN EMPTY CUP. You’ve got to be a functioning human to care for your kids. It’s okay to put your kids in a safe place (Like a crib, playroom, or under the care of others) and take a moment for yourself. Sometimes when I’m anxious I have to put Lucy in her bassinet and let her cry for a minute. I step out to the kitchen, get a sip of water, relax, and come back with more patience and less anxiety. She is safe to be left alone there. It’s okay to take a break.

If you need to step out, consider a moment outside where you can get some fresh air and vitamin D. Personally, I have a huge fear of accidentally locking myself outside, so I often just open the door and stand in the doorway. It’s enough to breathe and reconnect with the outside world. Remember that you also have to eat, sleep, and shower. Prioritize fitting those things into your day. It’s going to keep that cup of yours topped off.

Be realistic about the changes at home. You aren’t a teacher by trade, and you haven’t chosen to be put in this situation. Homeschooling will change your routine and the household dynamic. Working from home will be confusing with the distractions of home. The days blend together, and you don’t know if it’s day or night. The house might get a little messy. Maybe the kids miss a bath night or two. Roll with the changes and try to stay calm. You ARE a supermom, even if you can’t get everything done. Maybe even ESPECIALLY if you can’t get everything done. It means you’re putting your time into the correct priorities, and letting go of the little things. 

Most importantly ask for help when you need it. Of course, as always, this means reaching out to a therapist or friend if you’re overwhelmed, but there are a ton of situations where you can get help. If you’re confused by homeschooling, email the teacher. Trust me, they will be happy to help. If you have concerns about your child’s behavior, call the school psychologist and touch base. They can give you tips to cope, and red flags to watch out for. If there’s too much on your to-do list, talk to your partner. Now more than ever communication is key. Don’t shut down and expect them to read your mind. The last thing you want is to run on high tension and irritability when we are in such close quarters. It’s also a great time to introduce older kids to new chores. There is extra time for one-on-one teaching, and for them to practice their new skill. Kids can sense our frustration. They fear our irritability too, and learning a new chore will give them a sense of helpfulness. We want the people we love to have an easier time. Even if they complain at first, deep down they will feel productive. Voice to them how helpful they are, and how much you appreciate the help.

My advice on the COVID-19 questions:

There’s two kinds of anxiety. The first is the one we try to reduce; the overwhelming, unproductive, irrational worry. The second is helpful anxiety. Anxiety is a natural, important emotion. It keeps us alert to danger. It causes fear that produces a rational response to keep us safe. For example, if you see a hungry shark you SHOULD be anxious. The anxiety should tell your brain “run away!”

Working on the bad anxiety, most professionals are suggesting to limit exposure to news sources. The media produces information with adult viewers as the target audience. Kids need to be informed in child-sized doses to avoid being overwhelmed. Stick to what’s relevant, but be honest. Lying always makes things worse. If the truth is uncovered, it takes a toll on the trust your child has for you. Avoid the “what if’s” and focus on relevant steps we can take to be healthy.

That good anxiety will trigger rational worry too. Our body is telling us to be a little scared, take this seriously, but don’t panic. I’ve found the best way to handle this situation is with validation and a plan. “Yes, the virus will make you sick. Yes, it can be serious for some people. We can avoid getting sick by washing our hands and following the social distancing rule.” Knowledge is power, so education about stopping the spread of the virus is our strongest tool.

My advice for “oh my God, there are so many hours in a day. What do I do with these freaking kids?”

Give them the opportunity to take the lead by asking if there are any new hobbies they would like to take up. Learn together. Youtube has lessons for just about everything.This can also be a chance to learn researching skills and how to identify valid information on the internet (yeah, I’m looking at you, Wikipedia- our kids won’t be falling for your shenanigans.)

Involve the kids in positive socializing. Bring back the art of a handwritten letter. Use email, facetime, or even produce some window art for the Heart Hunters Project. (HHP is the decorating of windows and doors to spread a little love and positivity in your neighborhood.) Count blessings together, share life skills like cooking or learning a new chore. Do an art project. Play outside. Exercise. Talk- allow them to vent about their feelings and frustrations.

“Wrap it up, Catherine. This post is getting annoyingly long”:

Okay, okay- I’ll try to make this as short as I can. This is uncharted territory for all of us, children and parents alike. It’s frustrating and confusing, but channel your inner kindergartener and ‘treat others the way you want to be treated.’ Try your best to be patient and calm. Validate their fears and feelings, but let them know you’re doing your best to keep them safe. Try to find silver linings and small moments of happiness. Most of all, just show them affection. I know a good hug always makes me feel better!

I’m obviously not a professional. By no means do I have my life together. My house is a mess, I undercooked my pasta for dinner (and tried to pass it off as fancy by calling it ‘al dente’)  and I’m on day four of dry shampoo- but I’m doing my best. I’ve got some happy and healthy kids. This is what I’m doing in my home, and I hope it helps in yours.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.

Stay calm. Stay healthy.

-Kate and the Kids.

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. “Distance Learning” is a joy for everyone.

We are almost two whole hours behind schedule.

Today we  broke the rules. We snoozed the alarm, we stayed in bed. We are almost two whole hours behind schedule.

What do we do now?

We are making the choice to get it together. To know that the deviation from our routine was worth it. It was special. It was loving. The world, however, still moves on. There are things we have to do.

Large scale or small scale, it’s never too late to get back on track. Don’t consider your entire day a wash because you slept in. Don’t wait until Monday to start that diet. Don’t wait until the pandemic has passed to check on your loved ones. Make the choice right now to change, because any moment is the right moment.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.

Be consistent, but flexible.

And stop putting off getting back on track.

Kate.

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I don’t have to wear shoes.

This time quarantined has been trying for everyone. Mike is even more overworked than normal, I’m trying to juggle the mom/hometeacher/chef/maid hats, and keeping Lucy on her vaccine schedule has been especially stressful. Anna is her typical goof-ball, wild child self and Arielle has thrown us through a few loops this month. It seemed the only one keeping their cool was Jacen. He’s been playing video games during his non-school hours.(shocking I know.) He was quiet, so I assumed that meant content.

Please never lose your silly, Anna.. but maybe use the fork with your fingers instead of your toes.

Turns out the person I worried about least, actually has the most to be stressed about. I’ve been incorporating some mental health material into Jacen’s home school work, and today was the first time he indicated any anxiety.  How could I have dropped the ball on this one? His WHOLE WORLD has been rocked. He doesn’t see his friends, misses his teachers and has had his whole routine thrown right out the window. He’s trying to learn on a platform he isn’t used to, and he doesn’t have the same relationship with me as he does his teachers. We are too close, and it can be hard to be an authoritarian enforcing school work instead of the “fun mom” going to museums and zoos. He may have been able to lay low in a classroom of 30 kids, but now he has mom watching right over his shoulder. One on one. It’s a totally different atmosphere, and I’ve been challenging him. He can’t breeze through assignments that are easy for him, then relax while his classmates take their time learning at a slower pace. He’s working hard at home, he’s being watched, and he isn’t getting the social break of seeing his peers. It’s a lot on a kid. 

He’s sad that his cousin’s first birthday party was cancelled, as well as our vacation that was planned for April. He’s disappointed we won’t be going to see family on Easter. He’s starting to realize that there are a lot of things we are missing out on, and I think it just sunk in today that school will not be reopening any time soon. 

Today he wrote, [I’m feeling] “anxious because sometimes I feel that someone in our family is going to get it.” This was certainly a conversation starter. We talked a bit about how dad is around people while working in retail, which is confusing for Jacen because he was under the impression EVERYONE had to stay home. He also brought up his Nana, someone he is used to seeing on a regular basis. They saw each other from an 8 foot distance for about 2 minutes this weekend. It was the first time they had seen eachother in a month, and it just wasn’t enough. Nana is a nurse, fighting to help people. That means she’s working closely with the virus, and we are all a little stressed about it. We share custody of his step-sister. Traveling between our house and mom’s has raised a lot of concern for all of us, but we are still trying to stick with the custody schedule as long as we can. Jacen told me today that he is terrified Arielle will catch the virus in transit. 

Those are just the people who aren’t able to stay home.

He got emotional talking about the friends and family he isn’t able to see right now, and just wants to give out a million hugs. Me too bud, me too.

Things were heavy. We were both crying, wishing things were different. I was afraid to keep reading, but the next question was “What is something you like about being home?”

“I don’t have to wear shoes.”

We both started laughing. It didn’t seem funny or silly when he wrote it, it was just the first thought that popped into his mind.. But boy did it make us laugh after such a serious conversation. 

Jacen is going to remember this time more than any of my other children. I know he will remember missing his friends, staying inside, and being afraid of the things that were being said on the news. I hope he also remembers the fun we are having together, the love, and that he could do his school work while barefoot. This time is hard for everyone, but please try to find the happy moments. Some days it might seem like they don’t exist, but I promise they do. 

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.

Stay positive.

Don’t wear shoes.

Kate and Jacen.

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Stay Sane and Healthy, Go Outside at Home.

The weather is FINALLY cooperating where I live, so we were able to spend some time outside. Even when we aren’t in quarantine, I stay home with the kids. I’m embarrassed to say that even with daily opportunities, I’m really bad about getting outdoors. Don’t get me wrong, we totally do big things like the beach, park, hiking, walking/jogging for fitness, swimming, etc., but we definitely don’t spend enough time casually walking or relaxing in the yard.

The pandemic has really changed my outlook. We can no longer meet friends at the canal for a long walk, or spend time at the playground. At first I had the mentality that we were stuck literally within the confines of the house. This week I’ve started to realize all of the opportunities we have outside that are still following the social distancing rules. It opened our little world, and eased our cabin fever.

On the rainy days, I cracked the windows and opened the french doors. It was good for my anxiety to listen to the rain and breathe in some fresh air. When we woke up this morning it was starting to look like another gloomy day, so I set up an obstacle course indoors. Anna was less than pleased, longing to get out of the house and go somewhere.

Awesome, stuck in the house and Anna has an attitude. Should be a fun day.

A few hours later Lucy started to get cranky in her swing. I looked over and realized the sun was in her eyes. Wait, the sun?! I didn’t even bother to change Anna out of her Christmas pajamas. I just grabbed the kids and the bubbles and ran out the door. I didn’t want to miss our opportunity.

It’s common knowledge that the sun can help lift depression. People who suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) feel worse in the winter months when the sun is less available. The depression lifts in good weather. Sunlight provides a good dose of Vitamin D, which is crucial in bone health, cardiovascular function, and inflammation control. Sunlight also energizes the t-cells that increase our immunity- and who couldn’t use a little bit of that right now?

I could write pages and pages about how outdoor play benefits child development, but I’ll try to keep it short. Playing in an outdoor environment is less stimulating than an indoor play center. It gives children a chance to slow down and appreciate their senses without being overwhelmed. It has been shown that kids who are used to outdoor smells and naturally occurring colors have less food aversions, especially to vegetables. The outdoors present unpredictable challenges, which increases imagination and problem solving. Spinning, jumping and playing on naturally diverse terrain increases inner ear function, resulting in better balance. Overall, spending time outdoors decreases stress, releases serotonin, and encourages a healthy lifestyle in people of all ages.

I grew up an only child, and I never wanted to play outside because I didn’t want to play alone. (This is one of the reasons I wanted to have a big family!) I wish I could tell my younger self that outdoor play does not need to be a sport or game that requires multiple people. If I really thought about it, I probably would have realized that I could have been reading in the fresh air, eating a picnic lunch on the deck, or doing a DIY art project in the open air. 

We are busy people. When the pandemic is over, people will go back to running around again. Even staying home right now, it’s hard to find time for yourself. Homeschooling is time consuming, probably more than anticipated. Keeping the younger kids entertained is hard enough, but now we also have to stop them from distracting the older kids during class time. Most people are still working from home, facing their own distraction challenges. We are busy, but please, make time.

To benefit from time outside you really only need to dedicate 15 minutes. (It could be 15 minutes on the phone checking on a family member you can’t see right now!) Start doing it today, and continue when the pandemic passes. You might think it will be difficult to fit into your day, or hard to remember to participate in. (I know, our to-do lists are forever getting longer.) Making a lifestyle change doesn’t have to be difficult, especially one that only takes 15 minutes.

  1. Planning Stage: Decide on a goal – spend 15 minutes outside daily.
  2. Uncomfortable Stage: It will be hard to remember or prioritize because it is a new behavior. Block off the time in your planner or set an alarm. Most importantly, just do it.
  3. Leveling out stage: You find yourself heading outside at your regular time, even without a reminder. You may even start to look forward to it.
  4. Picking up Speed stage: You’re excited about your new habit, and start to feel the benefits.
  5. Feeling Normal/ Regular stage: Congratulations, you have formed a positive habit!

It’s been said that it only takes about 21 days to make an action a habit. It only takes 90 days to make it a lifestyle change. Seriously, you could be a healthier you before the pandemic is even over- all from dedicating just 15 minutes a day.

You can totally do it.

Getting outside today wasn’t exactly a day at the beach. I wish it was 75 degrees instead of cold and raw. The ground was wet, so we couldn’t really sit down and relax. Nonetheless, 15 minutes passed quickly. Anna chased bubbles, we waved to the neighbors from a safe social distance, and we watched a squirrel run across the roof and powerlines (we pretended it was playing ‘the floor is lava’ and Anna thought it was quite hilarious.)

Anna didn’t want to come back inside, but it was a bit cold to have Lucy out there for too long. When we settled in, I realized Anna was more calm than usual, sitting on the floor and nicely playing with blocks. I felt happier, and my motivation to blog and workout returned. It only took 15 minutes.

15.

Get outside today, but keep your 6 foot social distance.

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Stay home.

I mean it, STAY HOME.

Stay healthy,

Kate and the Kids.

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