Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Corona Virus Week 2 - Transitioning to a New Routine

By the time Friday got here at the end of the first week, I think we all were feeling all of the feels of being overwhelmed, worried, burnt out, stressed, etc. and it was hard getting through the day. It was warm and beautiful out so we decided to "call it a half day" and escape to the beach. We drove south to "our spot" and it was amazing how good the salt air was for our souls. It completely turned the whole day around and it felt so good to be in our most favorite happy place. 

Our Friday night ended on a really fun note as our PTA president organized a virtual Bingo night with our families and it was so much fun! 

This new way of life is challenging in itself, but what I think is the hardest part of all of this is managing our own feelings and worries but staying calm for the kids' sake. The first weekend felt like a relief but also hard at the same time because it was different. We're all used to a life on the go spent with family and friends that we love and knowing we couldn't go anywhere was really challenging for everyone. All in the same breath we can be appreciative of the extra given time we have to spend together but also, having a hard time with the things that we're missing. So, we did the best we could to have fun, relax, and just be together. I'm also so incredibly grateful for technology because we've had the opportunity to meet with friends, family, have the kids take karate classes and attend church all from our home. 

At the start of the next week, I worked at adjusting our schedule a bit to make it work better. We have to be more specific about having a schedule because that has always been the conditions that Colin works better under. While we are in a much different place now with him and his behavior, there are behaviors that Colin will exhibit when he doesn't know or understand what is happening. For example, Colin is the easiest in the morning on a typical school day because he follows the list so explicity; he is typically dressed (with shoes on), teeth brushed, bed made, etc. all before anyone else gets up. He doesn't even need the list anymore because he follows his routine. I knew that I needed to establish a routine for this time period because without it, he becomes obsessive with questions, he gets his "nervous" face, gets upset easily, and will act out in other ways. He is also the easiest to work with right now because he follows the list and routine, which provides him comfort. 

The schedule is adjusted often, depending on the day, and also as we learn what works best and what doesn't. I felt much more confident at the start of the week because things were going pretty smoothly. As with anything though, it came to a screeching halt when we all had a challenging day on Wednesday. We have lots of things that keep us going; the PTA president has been doing spirit days, the kids had "children's time" with the pastor at church, virtual craft time with Nana, and then at dinner, the kids just laughing remembering some of the "best" moments of our time together so far (me and Colin falling in the mud in the trails in week 1). 

The week ended on a positive note with some fresh air, a drive by visit from Aunt Kimmy and Bama, a scavenger rock hunt for Cody's Science, and a Friday night scavenger hung with the kids' school!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Corona Virus Week 1 - First Remote Learning Week

As news spread that it was going to become likely schools were going to close, I don't think we really understood what the implications of that were going to be. We tried to prepare the kids as much as was realistically possible, but as we reflect on the last week we realized that there really is not much you can do to prepare children for a major disruption in their lives. What makes this time period even more challenging is trying to deal with your own emotions as an adult out of fear of trying to protect your family but also, move on with working full time from home (both parents), now becoming teachers for your children, maintaining a household with a ramped up cleanliness policy, and trying to maintain as much normalcy as possible. I think Chris and I did the best we could, but it certainly has not been easy. 

On Day 1 of the remote learning plan, it was a little challenging because Chris was working from home and I had to go into work for my last day to prepare my own set of plans for my students. It was harder than I thought and when I walked into my classroom, I had this feeling of sadness for all of this unknown that was ahead of us. Our kids were starting their first day of remote learning, so some of it started before I got home and then we tried to tackle the rest in the afternoon. We had a schedule, but quickly realized that we needed to adjust the schedule to best fit everyone's needs. 

We also tried to get outside as much as possible and that is the time of the day that really helps everyone to regroup.

We also have found some great resources to help us get through. Colin absolutely loved listening to Dan Gutman read a book from his series "My Wacky School" and he read a few chapters each day stating with Monday. It was really great! 

Cody had his moments on the first day, so we tried to remember that learning can come through other avenues, including simple tasks such as building with magnets. However, he reached a point where he was just done.

Going into day 2, I knew we needed a better plan. I brought in extra tables from the garage to set up a specific area that they could work. I couldn't handle having the dining room table be such a mess and I thought it would be better to have a designated space. 

I adjusted the schedule (but then realized it would need to be adjusted again) and set a plan that was visible for everyone for the day. We started our day with a walk with scooters to ease ourselves into get work done. (Yes, Colin DID fall in the video, but he was Ok!)

We also decided to treat the day as if it were the "first day of school" to give it a positive spin and snapped some photos. 

In some ways, day 2 was the hardest but I think that's because the kids were really starting to realize this was their new reality. Each child had a moment that made it more challenging to work with them and thankfully, it didn't all happen at the same time! We finished the day with a trip to Allaire State Park for a walk in the woods on the trails. It honestly was what we (me) needed to turn the day around. This was especially true when Colin slipped on some mud at the river side, slipped into the water waste deep, and couldn't get out. I tried to help but then slipped myself and both of us laughed as we ineffectively tried to get out. Eventually, Chris had to come with a stick to get Colin out so that I could eventually get myself up and out of the muddy area. As we got back to the car, Cody turned to me and said "this was the best day ever" and it took me off guard because my perspective was totally different. 

At the end of the night, we found Kailey in Cody's bed and it made us realize just how much we all need each other right now. 

We tried to start to incorporate other strategies into our day (like www.gonoodle.com brain breaks) but it was becoming clear that the kids' were having a hard time. It's hard to find the balance between giving them tough love and emotional love! 

We adjusted the schedule so that there was more working during the day and more free time in the afternoon, which allowed us to take a trip to the Manasquan Bike Path so the kids could scooter around. In addition, the PTA at our kids' school helped to make the days more motivational and one of the days was crazy hair day! 

On Friday, we ended the week with a little bit of an emotional touch; Colin's elementary school celebrated World Down Syndrome Awareness day by Rockin' our Socks virtually! It was so touching to see all of the posts of people wearing their socks and honoring Colin in such an awesome way! We are so thankful for such a wonderful school community! 

Stay tuned for more! I need this outlet more than ever to at least document how we're getting through right now! I hope all are well and healthy!