Learning to Appreciate the Simple Life

Day 31 of social distancing.

It’s hard to believe it was only 32 days ago that our sweet twins turned 6 and we were waking up in one of our favorite hotels in Miami. We caught the sunrise over the ocean from our balcony before the babes woke up and made their way into our room. We played on the beach. We played in the pool. We drove home, bought a birthday cake, made them their favorite dinner, and we kissed them goodnight knowing that it was the last normal day any of us would have for a very long time.

It’s been four weeks, and travel is something we are all missing. I don’t think we’ve been home four weekends in years. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining about being home. We love our home, and we are never sad to be here. But, we miss the adventure of travel. It makes us restless to be home all the time, and we are – quite frankly – saddened by the cancellation of every trip we have coming up. Our spring break trip. Our 15th wedding anniversary trip to St. Kitts and Nevis. A voyage on the Independence of the Seas with the kids the first week of June. Our annual Memorial Day weekend trip. Two weekends away with our best friends to cheer them on in their fitness competitions. A trip to Texas to see my grandmother, to name a few.

We miss travel.

But you know what we miss the most? Our parents.

We haven’t seen them since March 16; the day after social distancing began, our moms both came over to see the twins the day after their birthday and to see Ava the day before hers, and let me tell you how much these four babes miss their grandma and grandpa, their nana, and their far-away grandpa (because we can’t just book a flight and make our way to NC right now, either). They miss them SO MUCH, and it breaks my heart we cannot see them. This is the longest any of them has ever gone without seeing them in their lives, and that’s hard on them.

They ask every single day when they can see their grandparents again. And, every single day, we tell them we don’t know. They FaceTime, but it’s not the same. Carter is a big fan of his grandma and his nana, and all he wants is for grandma and nana to come over and give him a squeeze and stay the night because it’s more fun with them here than with us here (true story).

If there is one thing we’ve learned during social distancing, is that these kids are so fortunate to have grandparents who love them, and who they love so much in return. That’s been the hardest part.

Social distance learning is going well. The kids acclimated quickly to their new normal. Addison is amazing handling her own schedule and maintaining straight As. Ava is killing it with her work and her meetings. The twins are so excited about their zoom meeting every morning with their class, and they love their work. The hardest part was the first few days trying to teach them how to use zoom (what to touch, how to turn their camera and sound on when the meeting starts, how to avoid accidentally leaving the meeting). Now that they all know how to do this, they are on it every single day. We have no complaints there.

The kids have their moments. Charlotte and Addison are laid-back and happy all the time. Carter and Ava both have big opinions and big ideas, and they butt heads. They tend to get on one another’s nerves at least once a day, but we really can’t complain.

With their own work to do, it allows us to get our work done. I’m able to finish all my deadlines before lunch, and they’re able to have my attention in the afternoons. We are taking nightly family walks, swimming and playing all weekend, cooking fun meals, eating too many desserts (and going for VERY long runs to make up for those), jumping on the trampoline, playing cards, ordering a ton of Grubhub deliveries, watching movies, playing games, gardening, playing outside.

Ava’s teacher let her class know that their parents are probably struggling right now as they do their own jobs, take care of their kids, help their kids by becoming their new in-home teachers, and trying to keep everyone entertained, and asked that the kids help out a little more to make mom and dad’s lives easier, and I haven’t had to tell this kid to clean her dungeon since. She’s been doing dishes (I mean, we use the dishwasher, but this child is legit doing them by hand), helping make dinner, helping water flowers and keep things neat and orderly. She’s a dream come true.

The world shutting down has given us the chance to spend so much more time at home, and to spend so much more time together. It’s been sweet in that aspect. The world is filled with people who do too much, go too much, work themselves too hard, over-schedule themselves, and overcommit; and this has been an amazing way to get rid of the toxicity of ‘busy’ and of the things that don’t bring us joy, the people who drain us that we can’t avoid otherwise, and the things that simply aren’t enjoyable. I can’t speak for others, but I know that without all that ‘clutter’ in my own life, I feel so much more relaxed and so much happier. It’s good.

You don’t realize until you clear your schedule how much better life is without all the clutter that fills it. It’s easier to find the joy in life when the things that rob you of it are no longer part of your life. It’s easy to love life and to have it love you right back when time is standing almost still and there is no rush. “Busy” is no fun, and I sincerely hope that the world learns from this pandemic that a simple life is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to embrace.

There’s no rush. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can sit on the lanai or the front porch rockers or the couch on the deck and drink our morning coffee and watch the day begin. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can sit at the table outside and eat dinner and linger. Where there wasn’t time before, now we can stay up a little later with the kids rather than rushing them to bed so they aren’t exhausted the following day. Where there wasn’t time before, we now get to slow down and actually enjoy the little things in life – and it is good.

How are you all doing in the midst of this? There’s a lot of unknown, but my advice is to step away from the media and the news and focus on home. We are thankful each day we have a beautiful home with plenty of space for our large family, a big piece of property the kids can run around in, and that everyone in our neighborhood has large properties so that we can walk and run without worrying about being close to anyone else. Be thankful for those little things in your own life. It helps.

Talking to Your Kids About COVID-19

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I won’t start with my typical Happy Tuesday because I’m aware this is not a happy time for most. In fact, it’s a terrifying time for many. For those who are susceptible to COVID-19 – or the Corona Virus – such as the elderly and those with compromised immune systems. For parents who fear the concept of homeschooling their kids (because the good Lord knows I’m not qualified at ALL to homeschool kids), small business owners unsure of the future, hourly employees who work for tips whose jobs are shut down, kids who don’t fully understand the fear and panic around them.

Especially kids.

I’m going to avoid discussing adults as a whole because we all already know how I feel about the general population, but I’m happy to talk kids. I have four of my own. I was once one. I have a bevy of kids in and out my front door on a regular basis. I know kids. I listen when they talk to me. I listen when they’re talking to one another or my husband. I observe their body language, and I hear the fears they might not have the bravery to speak out loud.

Kids don’t know what’s going on. Sure, right now, they’re all happy that they have an extra bit of time off school, but we all know that this little bit of time might become months. It might become distance learning and virtual schooling and homeschooling. Soon, they’ll be bored of being home. They’ll want to know why vacation was cancelled. They’ll want to know why we can’t go to their favorite resort for the weekend, or their favorite restaurants for dinners and lunches, or why we can’t go to Hobby Lobby on Tuesday for art supplies, or why we can’t go to the movies or Hammer & Stain, or why we can’t go to church anymore.

If they’re not already asking questions, they will. The excitement of cancelled school and events and extracurriculars that result in late nights doing homework and early mornings and long weekends of travel to places they have no desire to visit and finally having some free time will lessen, and they’ll want to know what’s up. I won’t lie and pretend I’m not excited for all the free time right now. I won’t act like I’m upset that things have been cancelled and we have the opportunity to get back our time and control of our schedules, and that I no longer have to stress about how I’m going to accomplish my work with so many interruptions on any given day. I won’t pretend I’m sad that I actually had the time to sit down and write a blog post for the first time in months because my work day isn’t chopped up by getting kids ready, taking them to school, going to practices, traveling for events, picking them up from school, working on homework, etc.

Social distancing isn’t something I’m unhappy about. The reason behind it, well, that’s less than ideal. But, it’s reality right now. We are fresh off a weekend trip to Miami to celebrate the twins’ sixth birthday and Ava’s 9th birthday – and it was exactly what we needed. Of course, we were a day into our trip when we got word of school closings and Disney closings, two days before social distancing was introduced and cruises were cancelled, and home before cities and towns began shutting down their restaurants and bars and clubs and movie theaters.

We had the best weekend on the beach and by the pool. There were plenty of people out and about, but the sunshine and fresh ocean air and al fresco dining all weekend was exactly what we needed before heading home to a completely different reality. Instead of spending the evening of our return passed out .2 seconds after our heads hit the pillow at bedtime, we spent that time talking about how we will answer our kids’ questions and how we will handle things as they change and as we approach the unknown.

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How will we answer the kids’ questions?

Honestly, but without inciting panic or fear. There’s no reason to hoard toilet paper or eggs, and we refuse to teach our children to approach life with a panicked mindset. We will be honest and open, but hopeful and concise. We will also answer them on a case by case basis. The twins’ questions will not be answered in the same manner as we’d answer them if it were Addison who asked. We will use common sense, but we will also maintain a level of honesty.

  • Talk honestly
  • Make sure they know the facts and the dangers
  • Remind them – again – of the importance of good hygiene
  • Encourage them to ask questions if they’re confused
  • Don’t let them watch media reports

How will we explain how life is changing?

Thankfully, there’s not much changing in the lives of the Raiford kids. I’ve worked from home their entire lives, so they don’t know any different there. Craig is approaching four years of working from home, so it’s their everyday life. Our everyday routine Monday-Friday will not change because of this, because I have my business to run and my husband has his job to do.

Weekends and evenings will be where the change is most noticeable. There won’t be any dinners out or any trips while we social distance for however long this is necessary. But, we will make life as sweet and comforting and familiar as possible by sticking to bedtime routines and everyday schedules. Kids love structure and routine – the Raiford kids LOVE structure and routine.

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How will we make life less scary for the kids?

Easy – we will have fun. These are uncertain times, but we will certainly spend a lot more time outdoors playing games. Baseball and football in the yard. Bike rides. Family walks. Dinner on the deck. Sunsets on the front porch rocking chairs. Breakfast on the lanai. Roasting marshmallows around the fire pit. Playing on the kids’ playground equipment. Ava asked if we could pick some summer nights to lie on a blanket on the deck and watch the stars, so we’ll do that. Family movie nights. Family game nights. Family dinners around the table outside. Setting up their art station on the deck. Playing card games. Read books. Write stories. Write great-grandma letters and draw her pictures. Laugh a lot.

We may not be able to travel – and that might be hard on our kids who are accustomed to it and love it on a regular basis – but we can have our regularly scheduled fun. We’ve got this.

How will we get through this?

For one, we pray. Second, we stay home. Honestly, we don’t get nearly enough time home, and our kids often ask us if we can plan time to stay home and be lazy. Well, now we can. We can sleep later. Nap if we want. Relax a bit. Go unhurried. We can get creative in the kitchen trying new recipes for once since we usually don’t even have time to cook the ones we already know. We just spend quality time together, and we keep our attitudes in check.

What can I teach my kids during this time?

I’m not worried about math or science or ELA or whatever. I’m worried about the important life lessons our kids will get out of this. Such as learning to stay calm and cool in a scary situation. Learning to spread kindness instead of ugliness. Learning to give back. Want to teach your kids something important? Teach them to give to others.

  • Buy a gift card for the grocery store in which you’re shopping and give it to the person in line behind you
  • Buy gas for someone at the gas station
  • Send flowers so that someone’s day is brightened and so that a small business owner gets some revenue
  • Buy some gift cards to use late
  • Wipe down your shopping cart before you use it and again after you use it
  • Share your resources if you have them (I’m talking to you TP hoarders)
  • Buy dinner for another family who is picking up their to-go meal at your favorite restaurant
  • Way over-tip (I’m a fan of 50% or more)
  • Be kind
  • Keep your opinions to yourself
  • Be quiet if you can’t be helpful or nice – this also applies to pre-and-post social distancing, y’all.
  • Ask an elderly friend or neighbor if you can pick up their groceries and deliver them safely to their doorstep
  • Do what you can, even when you think you can’t

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What if I’m scared?

Anyone who is not a little scared right now is a liar. It’s all right to be afraid. This is nothing we have ever encountered in our lives. It’s terrifying, and it’s uncertain, and many people are left fearful and desperate and feeling as if nothing will be okay.

It’s okay to be afraid. Look – approximately a week ago, we were planning our March Madness brackets and shopping for our spring break trips. A lot changed in that week. A lot can change this week. Keep that in mind. Anything can happen on any day – and that means there is always, always, always hope. It’s all right to be afraid, but don’t let that talk you out of also being hopeful.

I am SO happy to finally have the time to sit down and blog again, and I’m going to share a few posts a week. I’d like to keep them helpful and informative, but without being your news source. I just want to share what I know, what I’m familiar with a what applies. So, here’s to social distancing (or as I call it, my life because I like a handful of people and find the rest absolutely ridiculous) for the coming weeks, doing our best to help when possible, and staying safe.