Social Distancing During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Day 14

It’s day fourteen now. Two weeks in. Friends and family that live back in Texas are just starting their social distancing journey; Houston’s stay at home order started at midnight Tuesday. Homeschooling began Monday for them. On social media, they’ve started talking about how much they love being at home, how they were made for this.

I remember day one.

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Your Teen’s (or Tween’s) Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world, and local governments are pushing to slow the virus’ spread by encouraging social distancing and enforcing shutdowns of schools and nonessential businesses. People have been told repeatedly that they must stay home. In teens’ terms: everyone is grounded.

I’ve come across a lot of suggestions for activities to do with your young children while we stay at home during social distancing. But what about our older children? This necessary step of slowing spread of the virus during trying times looks exactly like their worst kind of punishment, but they did nothing wrong.

School is more than academics. It’s where young people explore new topics, an experimental zone of learning what interests you. It’s about finding a love of learning and socializing with people who laugh at the same things you do and who you can tell things you’re starting to not want to tell your parents. Middle school and high school are about exploring your identity outside of your nuclear family, and most of this is done through the way a tween or teen interacts with their peers. How are our children going to navigate this complicated time in their lives without traditional social interaction? Even if our kids stay caught up with their academic lessons, what of life lessons?

Generation Z has already been determined to be less social, less experimental, more anxious and more depressed. And now they’re in the middle of a global health crisis unlike anything we’ve experienced before.

Maintain Screen Time Rules. Yes, even though there’s a pandemic going on.

Screen time is a hot topic in parenting circles. Most parents feel like they’re allowing too much screen time, even if they know that their child is allotted significantly less than their peers. If you’re concerned about screen time at all and its effects on the developing brain, it always feels like the kids are getting too much.

Right now, I kind of wish someone would limit my screen time. I’m having a hard time pulling away from the constant news cycle warning us of what is to come and bringing awareness to our failed systems. Less screen time for your teen means less opportunity to consume information about devastation and doom. Boundaries are gifts to your children, as it’ll help them create their own boundaries as they grow older.

If you’re overwhelmed by caring for your young children for far more hours a day than you’re used to, I get wanting to flip the TV on. But a teen or tween has already had years to get used to the screen time rules you have in place and is well aware of alternatives. Let them do the alternatives, and stay in line with your values and standards. They’re already in front of a screen through the duration of their school day, do you really want older children vegging out in front of the TV all evening while the adults make three meals and clean up after them? Speaking of, you should probably…

Assign More Chores During Coronavirus Quarantine

Okay, I know I sound like THE WORST right now. No additional screen time AND more chores? You may be thinking, ‘I thought we weren’t supposed to be punishing them when they’ve done nothing wrong?’

You’re not. Do you punish yourself every night for making dinner by doing the dishes? Is your husband punishing himself for wearing too many clothes whenever he does the laundry? No! Chores and responsibilities are not punishments, they are a part of living. The more time spent at the house, the more tasks that become necessary for someone to do. That should not be shifted only to the parents.

It’s not just a matter of needing more help. For well being, people need a balance of activities that give them feelings of pleasure, closeness and achievement. Without extra curricular activities, the most opportunity your teen (or tween) has for feeling accomplished is by finishing another day of mounds of classwork without the added social benefit. Think of giving more chores to your quaran-teen as a gift to both parents and kids alike.

Emphasize the Need for Collaboration during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The only way that your teen won’t feel like they’re being punished in this process is by having a conversation about collaboration.

Talk to them about individuals doing what’s best for the team. Is that something they value? Can they think of ways that they’ve experienced this at school, in sports, or in their friend group? What about choices that were made within your community?

Once they’ve acknowledged the importance of collaboration, bring it home. Everyone is making sacrifices right now. People are losing their jobs, people are getting sick, and people are missing out. So it’s more important now than ever to work as a team.

Connect with your Teen

Teens have a reputation for holing themselves up in their room and ignoring the family. Because they have less access to their friends, it’s more important than ever to bridge the gap between you and your teen.

Think of things to do together. Let their interest be your guide. Watch a movie they’ve been wanting to see this weekend, play a game they like, or cook a favorite dish with them.

Think about your child’s love language. Have you been nourishing that in a way that makes them feel connected? Now is the time.

Acknowledge Feelings and Practice Gratitude with your Teen During the Pandemic

Teenagers also have a reputation for selfishness. Their brains are working differently than adults, so it definitely may look like a character flaw, but it’s not outside of the norm. When you discuss the negatives of this scary time, you find some hope and gratitude. If you’re reading this, you both are alive. That’s a start, build off of that.

Encourage Frequent Video Chats with Friends During Social Distancing

This is where I’m willing to make adjustments for screen time. I don’t need to tell you why relationships are important, or how essential connection is for mental health, but I did have to remind my middle schooler MANY times to download a platform he could use to stay in touch with his friends. If your child did most of their socializing at the school and less-so on the phone, you might have to push it for a while to make it happen.

I don’t generally allow social media or games on the phone for my middle schooler, but there’s a video chat app called Houseparty that I approved for him to get yesterday. Not only does it do video chat in groups, there are also game prompts for them to play with their friends during the conversation.

Send the Kids Outside While you Can

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We need as much sunshine as possible. It’s good for the brain! With my ankle sprained, I’ve been telling my son to get in the backyard. But for those of you without pain who don’t have a yard, go for a walk, bike ride, or look for another way to spend time outdoors.

Encourage your Teen to Make a Goal to Pursue During Social Distancing

This is (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence where you have no pressure whatsoever the leave the house. No pressure to achieve anything grand or push productivity. I’ve seen a lot of suggestions from people to spend this time slowing down, meditating, and relishing being out of the rat race. I’ve also seen people who want to reorganize it all, do a bunch of projects they’ve been meaning to do, and set their sites on goals they’ve been wanting to achieve.

Setting a goal during the pandemic isn’t about achievement as much as it is about intention. Encourage your child to consider what their intention will be during this unique time. Even if it’s rest, what does rest look like? Is it tuning things out? Is it more sleep, earlier times in bed?

If they do want to achieve something bigger, like pursuing an interest, what are resources you can use to facilitate that? YouTube has tutorials on just about anything, but there are more specialized websites that may be of more value.

Getting intentional about this time provides another opportunity for achievement in a time which that is limited.

Be Cautious of What Can be Overheard

I was on a video call this morning with a friend talking about the virus, fuming about our country’s leadership and sharing concern for what the future looks like, knowing the financial repercussions for this on such a massive scale without the right policies to protect the people. In the midst of this doomsday discussion, my middle schooler walked in the room, though his office space is on the other side of our house.

He surely heard the murmur of me talking to someone other than a baby, so curiosity caused him to head my way. He said he was “stretching.” Mhmm.

But in that moment I was really aware of how sheltered I can let him be when we’re in the midst of this. How much information is just enough? How can I straddle informing him and not scaring him?

Take it Easy

Sure, I seemingly just gave you a list of guidelines to follow to protect your child’s mental health during our current global health crisis. But really, this list was also a reminder for me. These are stressful times for everyone (though I acknowledge that they are far more stressful for those who get sick, their families, the medical professionals and grocers on the front line and those that are un- or underemployed) and we’re all just trying to keep the peace in our homes.

Raising a teen or tween is hard. Their prefrontal cortex isn’t fully formed, they’re hormonal, impulsive, and still very unaware of how the world works. It’s much harder in times when you’re figuring out how the world will work after a catastrophe. There’s only so much we have control over in times like these. You won’t always be able to keep your patience with them, but you can make attempts to connect with them, encourage them to connect with others, keep them active, in the sunshine, and as safe as possible.

The First Ten Days: Social Distancing during the COVID-19 Pandemic

It’s my day ten of social distancing. I don’t know how many days it’s been since you’ve seen friends outside of a screen or run an errand that was deemed non-essential. Maybe it’s been five days since you hit the gym, or maybe you waited until they shut down the bars in your city before you stopped going out. Maybe you’re a medical professional or you work somewhere that supplies essentials and you’re still more vulnerable than those who can or must follow through with the recommended guidelines. Everyone has their individual reality during this pandemic. Historians and friends alike are saying ‘write it all down!’ so I’m here, in my often-defunct, rarely-resurrected blog to share what my family’s reality is during the COVID-19 world health crisis.

Chatting with a Neighbor during coronavirus social distancing

For us, everything changed on Thursday, March 13. I went to the gym that morning, reassured by the owner’s Facebook posts about deep cleaning and preventative measures to decrease the likelihood of spreading of the virus. As we were doing our cool down stretching, she received an alert on her iWatch: the district’s schools were closing that afternoon for an unforeseeable amount of time.

Watching birds and a rare car pass by during the pandemic

My friends at the gym and I had a feeling we might not see each other in a while. We exchanged goodbyes with a curious feeling about when there would be another hello, while most days it’s a ‘see you tomorrow!’; knowing our gym routine is ingrained.

Nothing feels ingrained anymore. I went with my toddler to the store directly after the gym, as we did most weekdays for the last year. It didn’t look the same. It was frantic, things were flying off of the shelves. The clerks who we know by name were already harried, and it was still early. Very early.

Those of us who had been paying attention during the days prior weren’t terribly surprised. The neighboring Town of Westport had announced that their schools were closing the day prior. A recent international visitor had received a positive coronavirus test result from their home country after attending an event in Westport, and several other attendees had begun to experience symptoms. We still felt secure in knowing that there weren’t yet any cases in Fairfield, but at the same time we were well aware of how intermingled our towns are.

Proud of their pandemic pillow fort

The school officials were aware of this as well, and decided to make the call. Thursday, March 13, 2020 was the last day for students for the foreseeable future, while teachers were to report to school the following day, March 14, to make a plan and familiarize themselves with the resources for a distance learning program. By Friday evening, parents of the 10,000 children in the school system were given a quick run through via email about the distance learning program, and gave us a start date of Tuesday, March 17. It gave the district time to get approval of the distance learning program from the state so that the days the kids missed would not have to be made up at the end of the school year like snow days.

Elvis likes that we moved Tobias’ desk from the shared office to the living room for distance learning

Distance learning for middle school (in my district, at least) has been pretty seamless. Each middle and high school student was already supplied with a Chromebook at the beginning of the school year, and those who do not have access to the internet at home were given solutions. The students follow their usual schedule and are able to have access to their teachers at that time for answering any questions. Teachers have modified their coursework to better suit distance learning and the work has sufficiently taken up the allotted time. Some classes are utilizing chat rooms and this upcoming week my son’s French class will be using their mics to elevate the language learning experience.

The distance learning transition hasn’t been a matter of difficulty with the coursework, but rather the distractions. It’s hard to keep my older son on task when my youngest is having such a good time.

Coronavirus distance learning struggles

My husband’s job made the call that same Thursday. We’re lucky that his career is very computer-centric and he’s able to continue to work from home throughout all of this. This took some adjustments with two kids at home through the day. We had to do some rearranging. In our office we have a desk for every person in the family, but we couldn’t have our middle schooler trying to get work done while dad’s on business calls all day. I also needed to keep an eye on him, so I didn’t want him using the desk in his room. So there’s a desk in my living room—make that two. My toddler just couldn’t deal with my oldest being the only one to have the privilege of sitting at the living room desk all day.

The little guy has been on a streak of OBSESSION with his Dada, so it was causing some problems with him thinking every day was a Saturday but his Dada was ignoring him in the office. So our new routine is to wait until Elvis starts eating breakfast, then Mark gets his coffee, puts on his briefcase (while still in pajamas) and says, “I’m going to work! Bye bye!”

Elvis will say bye bye back and even if he overhears him it’s 👌. Mark gets his coffee delivered by his temporary secretary to avoid any confrontation with the baby before lunch. After lunch, the babe goes down for a nap.

How we’re Passing the Time During Social Distancing

When shutting everything down was just a rumor, I thought, ‘huh. I wouldn’t mind being quarantined at all. I have plenty of projects to do around the house and can always run and hike.’ I’ve also just come out of a very busy snowboarding/travel-filled winter, eventful Christmas season, and fall fun/travel-full fall. I was ready to cut out some social obligations.

Pandemic Baby Playgroup

But day two of social distancing, I went for a run with the jogging stroller on the sidewalk. Someone had overgrown bushes that were impeding the full use of the sidewalk and I ended up falling and spraining my ankle in a divot. It’s by far the worst injury I’ve ever gotten while running, and a huge bummer given the circumstances. No hikes or runs for me, and even cleaning things up around the house has been painful.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons online on our filthy playroom 🤪

The kids have busied themselves with a lot of outdoor play, painting, sensory play, listening to podcasts, playing pool, reading books, drawing, hanging out in the fort the kids made, taking naps, a video chat playgroup, a three-hour Dungeons and Dragons session with five friends, watching Frozen 2 and Wreck it Ralph as much as possible, and playing chase around the house. I’ll let you guess which one was doing what.

Elvis in the outfit he picked out in front of the fort

Mark loves to cook so he’s been doing that. Sweet potato hash + andouille sausage breakfast burritos, mixed fruit cobbler, white chocolate malpua, blackened fish tacos…to name a few.

I’ve been reading as my ankle heals, and felt a lot better today so I’ve been working on a home project.

We don’t know how many days or weeks or months we’ll carry on like this, or what the future holds. We’re just taking it moment by moment, day by day. This is day ten.

A Story About Our Colorful Mid Century Modern Inspired Woodland Nursery

Around this time last year, I shared my pregnancy announcement. I showed y’all my babymoon in Paris portrait session, but aside from that, it was radio silence over here about anything baby. But yes, we welcomed a beautiful baby boy in the summer.

Birth announcement foil balloon zero days old

As you know, we moved to our new house recently. What you may NOT know is that we moved in exactly three weeks before I gave birth.

My pregnancy was less than ideal, and at one point I was put on bed rest. So when we moved in, I wasn’t able (nor did I have enough energy) to get started on my projects! It was looking like the baby would come into the world without a space to call his own.

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Introducing: Home Number Three

If you’ve been reading for a while, you may know that my little family is now living in house number three. The first was a little mid-century ranch in the the Westbury subdivision of Houston, Texas. It was a foreclosure and we did quite a bit of renovations prior to moving in. We lived there for a little over three years, decided we were moving to Connecticut, then I shared a before and after of our first home.

Next up, we owned a little Cape Cod style home. It was smaller than our previous home, but newly gutted with brand new just about everything–pipes, electric, windows, drywall. Brand new. It was small and on a small lot, but it had a really lovely view of a pond directly behind it, and I’d hop in my kayak in my backyard and row around a bit sometimes. We also had the pleasure of seeing a lot of wildlife in our backyard. It was lovely, but then came time to move, again. So, I shared a before and after of our second home and a subsequent post about maximalist decor in a small space.

Now that I’m back to blogging, I’ll introduce you to home number three.

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Living Small with a Maximalist Mid Mod Eclectic Living Room

Prior to yesterday, the last time I wrote was when I had only a few days left before we moved into our new house. I shared with you a home tour of our first Connecticut house, though it was staged in those photographs for selling. As promised, here are some pictures of what our communal space looked like as we lived in it.

Maximalist Mid Century Modern Decor in a Small Space

Upon entering our previous home, there was a mud room just big enough for a small closet. On the other side of that door, you were first greeted by these stairs.

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I wallpapered the stair risers with this gorgeous metallic wallpaper from Jonathan Adler. The paper was a real splurge, but I still have enough to do a decent size project again and it was, in my opinion, the biggest “wow” feature I could have in a small space.

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They’ve since discontinued this wallpaper from Jonathan Adler, as well as most of the others that were produced by his brand.

On the wall going up the stairs was my collection of photographs from our travels and some of the more exciting experiences we’ve had that were on or off the bucket list. I called this wall my “gallery of adventures.” With it being up the stairs, it was very hard to shoot, but here’s a glance.

Almost all of the frames were thrifted, and if they weren’t already a shade of bronze or gold, I sprayed them with Rustoleum Metallic.

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The pink French door led to the mudroom. I painted it myself. It was white, along with everything else, when we moved in. Check out New House Project Plans to see the beginnings of this space. It was a real blank canvas.

Those footstools were from Homegoods. I thought they were totally unnecessary when I bought them, but I couldn’t resist the fact that they were the perfect colors to go with the rug.

I ended up putting them near the entrance so that we could sit and remove our winter boots somewhere other than the stairs. We did this, but far more frequently we’d move them over to the coffee table as additional seating for board and card games.

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Both of the wingback chairs were thrifted for $25 each, but a few years apart. One day I’ll at least reupholster that mauve-y one. The black and white striped pillows were a couple of my first sewing machine projects. The fabric is from Ikea.

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When we moved in to this home, one of the first things I did was remove the bamboo blinds and add sheer curtains. It allowed for just enough privacy but made for a lot of natural light that ultimately helped the small space feel larger.

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Here’s a wider shot of the living room. In it you can see the weaving that I created with a hula hoop. Going through these pictures is making me so nostalgic!

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For every meal (or any other activity), I sat on the right, facing the water. I really loved the view of the pond and that we could see it from so many angles of the little house.

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We added these shelves out of necessity–there wasn’t much cabinet space in that kitchen at all! They were simple shelves from IKEA with traditional white brackets from the hardware store for support, painted gold. eclectic mid century modern living room-19

There originally wasn’t a light fixture above the dining table at all, so when I had this one from West Elm installed with stained glass lightbulbs, it made a big impact.

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And in the center of it all was our not-once-used fireplace and the definitely used TV that came with the house. We hadn’t had a TV for a few years prior and we left it when we sold…but I admit, we bought another TV 🙃

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And that’s all she wrote! This space, and the projects that I created within it seem like ancient history now, but there may be times I want to reference it or I may decide to finally share half-written step-by-step tutorials for some of these projects.

Tour Our Second Home, On the Market Before and After

I loved this house well and I had so much fun making it ours, adding my personal style everywhere. The following pictures don’t fully reflect my personal style, because these were the listing photos for the house just prior to us buying it (sight unseen!) and after my friend Ky and I pulled up our bootstraps and prepared the house for showings.

If you haven’t sold a home before, you probably don’t know: you don’t just take pictures of how you’re living in it. You’re going to want to do quite a few things before you put it up.

Prepping a House for the Market

  1. Take down personal items. Photography especially–you want the potential buyer to picture themselves there, not you.
  2. Remove all clutter. Your kitchen counters should be devoid of appliances, your fireplace mantle shouldn’t have any tchochkes.
  3. Take a LOT of furniture out. Open up the space as much as you can.
  4. Take the books out of the shelves and style them instead. Creating space even on your furniture opens up the room to the eye. It’s like magic.
  5. The more you move out of site, the better. Use the garage or the basement, if you have one, to put these items away. If not, rent a short-term storage unit.

As mentioned in our moving announcement, our house sold in three days! We had an offer and a back up offer quicker than we could have imagined.

The Home Tour, Before and After

These are photos that we had listed online of our house when it was on the market in 2015 when we bought it, and months ago when we listed it.

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