I came here today to write about the last two weeks and realized it’s actually been THREE weeks since my last Weekend Reflections post. Yikes. September has been a rough one, guys. Probably the hardest month yet in this whole pandemic living mess. Life has been HARD. It hasn’t been easy to motivate myself to do much of anything and writing some sort of reflective and positive recap of the weeks is definitely at the bottom of my list. But I want to remember these days, the good and the bad.
I think virtual school – REAL virtual school, not like what was scrapped together in spring – may be the the thing that takes our whole family down. And let me be clear, I’m not blaming the teachers or the school or the classes. It’s my kids. They are fighting tooth and nail to make this whole experience as miserable as possible for all four of us. And while it can be infuriating spending literally hours a day arguing about doing certain assignments, it’s also incredibly sad watching their spirits deflate and lose the remaining hope of normalcy they had.
Caden is doing okay. Every day gets a little easier with him as he realizes he really does have to spend a full class period working on certain subjects. He wants everything to be easy and throws a fit when it’s not. He was also assigned an elective that he did not sign up for and it’s the class he gets the most work in and he HATES it. If he didn’t have that class then we might just be smooth sailing with him.
Then Shepard. Oh Shepard, my most stubborn of the stubbornest of children. Let’s just say learning virtually with the expectation of doing most of your work independently is not a model that works for him. He needs a teacher to keep him on task. He needs classmates and friends to connect with and blow off steam with. Instead he’s stuck in his room with often eight, nine, ten, even eleven hours of school work a day, that he has to keep track of and complete on his own. Greg has to micromanage every single thing that he does and he still can barely finish everything he’s supposed to each day because he just digs his heels in and flat out refuses. He also abhors being on video, and you need to be on video calls or record yourself doing certain things a whole lot in virtual school. It’s been so, so hard with him. And every day seems to get worse instead of better.
Greg wanted to be the one to take on most of the school stuff with them. He kept insisting on it. But it didn’t take very long to realize he can’t sustain that level of interaction if he still wants to do his own job. It’s honestly a miracle he gets any of his work done with how often he has to stop and help either of them. I TRY to get involved, but I’m usually out of the loop to begin with and by the time I try to offer my assistance they’re all too angry to explain to me what’s going on. They’re also all on the second floor of the house and I’m on the first floor doing my work, or cooking or cleaning, so I’m never the parent they’ll come to because it’s too inconvenient. But short of sitting in the hallway just waiting for an opportunity to help, I don’t know how to change anything. And doing that would be a HUGE waste of my time and so many other things would go undone that it would cause a whole new set of problems.
So. I’m not really sure where to go from here. But entering every single week day like it’s a battle has really taken its toll on all of us. It’s destroying us, to be honest. I can’t imagine going an entire school year like this. I can’t imagine another month of this. But what other choice do we have? Yeah, we COULD decide to send them to school. There are very few kids in our district that chose this all virtual model. But Wisconsin covid cases are skyrocketing right now. We have the second highest number of cases in the country at the moment. It feels too risky to send them to school after all the preventative measures we’ve taken the last six months. Plus Caden would still be home three days a week anyway (Shepard one). So instead we just power on. And pray it gets easier.
In happier news, I was able to go on my first solo vacation of the year! I had a couple planned in spring that I had to cancel and just figured I’d never get to do it again. Which was extremely disappointing since it’s basically my all time favorite thing. No offense to Greg or my kids, but my kind of vacationing is very different from theirs and we realized a few years ago it really just works better for everyone if I go on my own. Plus it’s the perfect chance to recharge. Those opportunities have been few and far between this year. I actually scheduled a post-birthday trip first, but after how September started off (worst week of our lives??) Greg urged me to take another trip sooner. He didn’t have to tell me twice! I immediately searched around and found a perfect place to stay in Port Washington a few days later.
I left as soon as I could that first day and stopped at Kettle Moraine Pike Lake Unit State Park for a short hike. Then I grabbed a snack and coffee and headed up to my airbnb in Port Washington where I was able to check in really early. Next I walked around Lion’s Den Nature Preserve. It was a really beautiful spot, but it was SO crowded. This was on a Sunday, and the weather was beautiful – the first really nice day after a week of rain, so it made sense that people were flocking to great outdoor places. I managed to never get other people in my photos, but it was kind of a stressful situation. The water and the clouds looked so pretty that day, though!
On Monday morning I was up and out the door by 5:50am and didn’t come back to the airbnb until late afternoon. The weather was just so perfect that I didn’t want to lose a minute of outdoor adventuring. I was hoping to see two amazing sunrises on the beaches, but my trip coincided with some of the worst air quality conditions that came over from the west coast and the sky was just a flat gray the majority of the trip. Kind of a disappointment, but at least the weather itself was really nice. Plus it was nice walking around the lakeside Port Washington parks so early in the morning.
I had plans to stop at a bakery for breakfast, but missed the memo that they were only open on weekends now. So I picked up a coffee and then headed to my next destination – Harrington Beach State Park. I walked the beach trail and enjoyed watching the seagulls play in the waves.
The real treasure, though, was walking around Quarry Lake. I LOVED it here. It’s an old quarry that filled up with water and then they created a nice easy trail with plenty of places to rest around the entire lake. It was so serene and beautiful. I only encountered about two other people the entire time I was at this park. I’m sure it’s filled up in summer, but for a September Monday morning it was perfect for me.
I definitely ended up doing a lot more driving around on this trip than I ever anticipated. I barely spent any time at my airbnb, which was my only regret. But I was actually having a really hard time finding meals. I definitely wasn’t going to eat IN any restaurants, I didn’t want fast food, and I only wanted to pick up food from a place I could order online from. The late lunch I got on Sunday made me feel pretty crappy and I wanted to try a lot harder to only eat the foods that feel safe (as in, nothing fried). And there just weren’t the right kinds of options nearby. Mexican is what I always seek out because it’s my favorite and it never makes me feel sick, so I eventually did some shopping and landed at a fun taco place much closer to Milwaukee. I brought it to Doctors Park and ate in a quiet field and then hiked down to the beach. It was a really beautiful park too!
I went back to my airbnb in the afternoon for a late nap and then headed out again to check out some other Port Washington parks, but managed to get back to the apartment around 7 so I could enjoy a couple of hours of relaxing before bed. The night before I wasn’t back until after 9 and then I spent an hour trying to better plan out Monday so I wouldn’t waste so much time searching around on my phone. No matter how much research I do ahead of time for a trip (A LOT), it never seems to be enough.
On Tuesday morning I headed out before six again, still hoping for a nice sunrise. The sky was slightly more colorful and when the sun finally rose it was a bright neon pink behind the haze. I grabbed another coffee – a harvest (apple and butterscotch) dalgona coffee – which was so tasty!
My airbnb was so pretty, I really wish I had spent more time there. I loved all the beautiful places I went – nature really soothes my soul. But a third night would have been nice to allow a little more time for resting. I was SO exhausted by Tuesday. Not really how I wanted to feel heading back into reality! When I got home I actually changed my October trip by adding a third night so I hopefully won’t have this problem again. I need a better mix of adventure and rest!
After I left the airbnb I went back to Quarry Lake for another walk. Then I checked out a couple of gifty stores in West Bend and ended the trip grocery shopping so I wouldn’t have to go out again that week. Overall, it was such an amazing getaway and exactly what I needed. Obviously taking vacations by myself every month is not exactly affordable or always feasible, but I’m really thankful I had this one and another in two weeks. They really boost me up for getting through the harder days.
Nothing terribly exciting happened the rest of that week, until Caden’s birthday party on Saturday. I was pretty stressed out about how we could give him a party while also trying to stay relatively low risk, but I think we pulled it off nicely. It was VERY low key, but that’s the perfect kind of party for Caden. We set up the food in the garage, arranged tables on the driveway that were all distanced from each other and could only seat the people that lived with each other. The two sets of grandparents and my brother were the only guests.
We had tacos for dinner and ice cream for dessert. Easy!
The puppies also came! And Caden got all of the computer and techy gadgets that he asked for. Pretty much the perfect birthday celebration for him!
This last Monday was the day it took Shepard 11 hours to complete his schoolwork. It was a really hard day and he was so defeated. So we took a break after dinner and ran to a $1 pumpkin patch out in the middle of nowhere. The mosquitoes were awful so we didn’t stay long, but we got five big pumpkins to decorate the porch. It was a good break for both of us.
Caden’s 12th birthday was on Wednesday. It was a late start (even though everyone does virtual on Wednesdays) so the workload was a little bit lighter that day. Caden got his games back after a three week hiatus, so he played a few hours in the morning and for most of the evening. He opened up his presents first thing, we had his birthday cake at lunch, and for dinner I grilled him a bunch of meat. He’ll eat pretty much anything, but doesn’t really have any real favorites (other than tacos, but we’d been eating them for days at that point), so I just made a big variety. He loved it! He kept thanking me and telling me it was the best meal ever. Overall it was a really nice day.
This weekend has been really busy! On Friday night I had another Pen Pals zoom show, which was a lot of fun. I think they’re planning on having shows once a month until they can start performing in live venues again, so it’s something special to look forward to just for me. I’m also participating in a readathon with my favorite facebook book club this weekend. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had a ton of time to read, but it’s still fun to feel part of something special with other like minded people!
I placed my first Saturday farmers market pick up yesterday when I realized I won’t be able to go the next two Wednesdays and I’m missing out on so much great produce! I spent half as much money as my last huge order (no baked goods lol), but still ended up with a massive amount of food. I need to figure out how to use all of it this week. It’s a challenge I haven’t felt up to starting quite yet.
And then we celebrated Cindy’s birthday! I made my second berry topped flourless chocolate birthday cake of the week and we hung out on their deck for the afternoon. It was very nice!
And that brings me to today! There are so many things I could have done today. But I’m trying to build in more downtime so I stop feeling like I’m losing my mind with stress and anxiety all the time. I’ve never been a big fan of weekends, but this month I’ve joined the masses with looking forward to these two days all week long. Any day we don’t have to deal with school and work is a win now. Normally I do MY work during every spare moment I have (often around 4am and 7pm these days). But I’d like to try and take weekends off as well. There are plenty of other ways to spend Saturdays and Sundays.
This morning Greg and I took Annie to a beautiful county park to hike around a bit before the rain came. It was really nice! As hard as these days are, I’m really finding a deeper appreciation for little things. A great cup of coffee, fall flavored baked goods, a perfect scented candle, every ounce of seasonal outdoor joy. Fall has always been my favorite, but I don’t want to miss a moment of the beautiful colors and weather this year. It’s probably what is going to need to sustain me through our long cold winters!
The week ahead is pretty quiet, thank goodness. This has been such a busy month. We do have some appointments midweek, but for the most part it should be a slower couple of days. I’m hoping to get a lot of work done and maybe make some sort of breakthrough on how to make virtual school easier. Maybe??
Have a good week, everyone! It’s almost October! (The BEST month. :))