Pebble Art:: Instructions and Tips for Your Child’s Rock Collection

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Two years ago, while visiting family on the east shore of Lake Michigan, my children spent an afternoon knee-deep in warm lake water filling an ice cream bucket of rocks and pebbles—which later turned into what we call pebble art.

That statement says two things about our family: we eat a lot of ice cream, and we’re easily entertained.

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Fast forward to now. I have three bored-off-their-gourd kids, a bucketful of penny-sized pebbles (still), and a hunkering for some creativity. Doing what we moms do best, I turned to Pinterest for motivation. It did not disappoint.

Introducing Pebble Art

Let me first say, you don’t have to drive to Michigan, gorging on ice cream to do this craft. The Dollar Store sells pebbles and rocks, as do most craft stores.

Pebble art is just what it sounds like, a piece of art using pebbles. Any quick search for pebble art will pop up a slew of inspirational ideas ranging from simple to complex. We went for simple.

What you’ll need to create Pebble Art:

Pebble Art: Step One

Pebbles
Glue*
card stock paper and frame** (or canvas)
fine-tipped Sharpie, black
pencil and scissors
twigs and twine if desired

*We used Aleene’s tacky glue for its strong bonding qualities while still being appropriate for little hands. It dries clear and has a price point of $2 a bottle.

**If you want the art behind glass, use a photo box frame.

How To:

Spread the pebbles out, making them easier to see. Embrace the time-consuming process of children oohing and ahhing over all the cool rocks—because they will. It’s also beneficial, like spreading out the pieces of a puzzle before putting it together. You need to see what you have to know what you’re working with.

Cut paper to size to fit inside the frame. Lay the pebbles out in the chosen design, using twigs or twine as desired for embellishment. For birds on a twig, glue the twig in place first. Press and hold gently for 30-60 seconds. Eager kid fingers sometimes press too hard on glue, and items may slide from the original location. If possible, draw beaks before gluing the pebble birds: glue pebble birds and any additional embellishments as desired. Always sign your art. Allow the glue to dry completely before framing.

Decorating with Pebble Art

Tips:

Do all background work first. Use watercolors to paint a scenic background or colored paper to create a simplistic scene before adhering to the pebbles. For most ideas, we found gluing pebbles was the last step. Curlicue cattails, twigs, twine, balloon strings, inked lines for beaks and feet: all worked and looked better if they were placed first.

Enjoy! Use for décor or gifts for friends, grandparents, and teachers.

Poop Group:: Staying Connected with Long Distance Friends

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Yes, you read that correctly—poop group.

If you’re still with me, it’s because you’re intrigued. You’re asking, “What is this poop group you speak of?”

It’s exactly that, a group message where a few of my gal pals and I let each other know when we have taken a number two.

And, also, so much more!

Friends and The Beginnings of Poop Group

It started last October when one of us ladies shared a meme to a group text about “spooky dookey.” It was so funny that it was how she planned to refer to her business for the remainder of the month, and then it just took off from there. We all started to share our “spooky dookey” moments for the rest of October.

Poop Group
The start of it all, October 2018

As October drew to an end, we got excited to come up with fun phrases and emoji combinations (the poop emoji always involved) for the months that followed. We were fully committed to this idea of sharing these moments on the porcelain thrown with each other and making them match a fun theme for each month.

But it’s not just our bowel movements that we share. This is a group message, and we come back to each other in this thread with many things: exciting moments with our kids (cats for the kid-less gals), ridiculous things that our significant others do, a place to rant, where we share our personal wins, and everything in between.

We started where we all lived in the same area, but as a group of mostly military wives, I have now moved 1500 miles away, and the trend will continue as other ladies begin to move with their families. And, of course, the current pandemic hasn’t helped in keeping us close either.

Can you believe we are gals who enjoy chatting about poop?

Keeping Connected with My Lady Friends

Regardless of it just being a day where we each share the good news of our digestive tracks working well, we are staying in touch. It’s small conversations that are keeping us connected, something that gets much more difficult when we are no longer living 10 minutes away from our friends.

I’m sure some of you are reading this and thinking, “What in the world?! Who in their right minds would share such a personal human bodily function?!” Others are on board with the “these are my kind of ladies!” mentality.

Is It Really About Poop?

It’s really not only about the poop, though. It’s finding the right friends in your life and getting creative in fostering that friendship when it is the hardest. Like I said, some days, we really do only share the information that started it all while other days it grows into something more.

Either way, we’re staying connected with people important in our lives and getting good laughs out of it along the way. And that’s something special that we all need.

Poop Group and Friendship
Somehow, we managed to only ever get 3 out of the 4 of us in a photo together.

 

Keeping it Simple:: Back-to-School Lunch Packing Hacks

Back-to-school time is always bittersweet. This year, that’s even more true. With all that’s going on, we wouldn’t blame you if packing your kids’ school lunch hadn’t even yet entered your mind.

We’re here to help with some practical ways to not pull your hair out about back-to-school lunch packing. 

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Back-to-School Lunch Packing Hack #1:: Excitement

First things first, get your child excited about the new year with a new lunch box! 

These Neoprene ones have held up well for us in the past and usually work for younger students, but may not be large enough for older students. 

I was also recently introduced to these freezable lunch bags. Don’t they look like a cool (pun intended) alternative to digging around your freezer for a cold pack to throw in?

Bento boxes were all the rage a year or so ago. They help segment out foods, especially if you have a kiddo who doesn’t like their food to touch, but I find myself much more often using separate containers. 

Notes to consider: 

  • Where does your child store their lunch during the day? For older students, if lockers are unavailable for use this year and lunch boxes need to fit in individual backpacks, a hard-sided option may not be best to stuff in there with everything else.
  • Not all schools can recycle. If that’s important to you (and I hope it is), make sure you send a lunch box full of reusable containers vs. disposable bags.

Now, what should you pack inside the lunch box?

Note to consider: how much time is your child allotted for eating their lunch? This factors into what you pack for lunch.

A more veteran mom than myself gave me this piece of advice: “girl, have the kids do it themselves!” If like me, you want to know more, she shared the following tips:

  • Get sizes of different containers that can hold small snack quantities, like for nuts or chopped fruit or veggies. Keep all of that and their matching lids in one spot, accessible for kids to reach. 
  • Similarly, get some bins where you can put all the pre-packaged options they can choose from for lunches: applesauce, crackers, chips, granola bars, etc. You may even consider clearing out a drawer or other space in the fridge for them to easily find and choose from lunch items like boiled eggs, yogurt, cheese sticks, etc. 
  • In addition to training them on where to find food, this method of lunch packing also requires some training about food groups and quantities, so don’t forget that part. 
    • Side note: If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve said, “not until you eat your protein!”

In a rut with what to pack?

Sandwiches are an easy go-to for many moms, but here are two really great follows on Instagram to check out for more creative ideas:

Our Idaho Falls Moms Blog sister site also has this great post, complete with a chart of specific food ideas to try, in addition to many other tips. 

I think a problem many of us have is putting too much pressure on lunch as a full meal. If you make sure to provide a healthy breakfast and dinner, it’s perfectly acceptable to send a lunch box full of nutritious snacks—that counts in my book!

Miscellaneous back-to-school lunch packing tips

  • For little hands, make it easier to eat fruit like oranges and bananas by making a small slit in the peel to get it started.
  • Speaking of fruit, did you know you can use orange juice to soak apple slices in so they don’t turn brown? I’ve always used lemon juice, but sometimes that alters the taste due to the amount you have to squeeze on there. Now, mix the lemon juice with the OJ, and you’re golden! 
  • Drinking fountains will likely be inaccessible to drink from during the pandemic, so don’t forget to send a reusable water bottle along with your student, too! 

Bottom line

You know your child(ren) best—when it comes to food and everything else. Buy and pack what you know they like to eat. That goes whether you’re sending your children back to the classroom this year or you’re stocking up for a homeschool venture. 

And whether you’re the kind of mom who cuts gourmet sandwiches into heart shapes and writes encouraging notes or you’re the kind who struggles with a morning routine and getting a picky eater to eat anything you haphazardly throw in there, you’re doing a great job.

Happy 2020-2021 school year!

The Heart of an Omaha Military Spouse: Welcoming Military Families

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Military Families in Nebraska

It wasn’t a surprise when my husband signed his contract to join the military. Growing up, he joined the Civil Air Patrol, ROTC, and always had a dream to fly. We are high school sweethearts, so I got to experience much of this journey with him. We got married, graduated from college, he commissioned, and we moved to our first duty station all in the same month. I’d lived in the same house my whole life until my wedding day, but off into the wild blue yonder, we went—like many other military families.

We’ve moved, as a military family, six times in the past thirteen years.

We have three sons born in different places. I earned teaching certificates in five different states. I teach online now so that I can be a stay-at-home-mom. He’s been on countless temporary duty assignments, training, worked long hours, and deployed—just like most military members. The only thing sure in the military is uncertainty.

And still.

The most common thing any military family will hear is, “but you knew what you were getting into.” That’s like telling a new parent who needs help and is stressed out, “you knew what you were getting into when you decided to have kids.” You don’t know until you’re living your own story.

Military families move every few years.

That means every few years we’re uprooting our family, changing jobs, houses, schools, in-person friends, neighbors, where we shop, activities we’re involved in, medical providers—so many changes. There is little choice where we get to move. Whenever a “dream sheet” has ten options, I caution spouses not to forget the eleventh choice…wherever the military wants to send you, even if it’s not on “the list.” Expect the unexpected. Do you know my friend Murphy? He shows up every time my spouse is away. Something always goes wrong.

I have felt my highest of highs and the lowest of lows being a military spouse. There are so many wonderful things about this way of life. I am incredibly proud to be a military spouse, and I consider it a major part of my identity. We traveled to unlikely places, met the kindest people from all different backgrounds, and made lifelong friends all over the world.

“You knew what you were getting into.”

Dream: We’ll travel the world!
Reality: You’ve got orders to a remote location you’ve never heard of before.

Dream: I’m successful in my career field and the bread-winner of our family.
Reality: You’re moving to a remote location where they haven’t heard of your career field, or you’ll be taking a demotion/drastic pay cut.

Dream: The romantic homecoming scene from the movies.
Reality: Behind-the-scenes managing the home front.  Cereal for dinner, kids?

Nebraska Nice for Military Families

Military Families in Nebraska

Offutt Air Force Base was high on our dream sheet list for this past move, and we consider ourselves lucky to be stationed here. We’ve always heard great things about Omaha, and we have found that it is the perfect spot for our family. It is an excellent mix of urban and rural areas, and within just a few months, I could see why so many families choose to retire here.

It was helpful that we knew a few other military families stationed here before we moved here, including one of my dearest friends.  The Air Force family becomes smaller and smaller, the longer we stay apart of the community; therefore, we cross paths occasionally. It was great to ask friends and acquaintances that were already here about the schools, housing areas, recommended babysitters, churches, and I got connected to Omaha Mom through one of my former neighbors who was living here and wrote for them as well!

How can you bring out the Nebraska Nice and make new military families feel more welcomed?

  1. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello. Come to say hello; we want to get to know you. Welcome us and our kids to the neighborhood (we also never turn down treats). Leave a little note with your names and contact information so we can get in touch with you.
  2. Invite our kids to play with your kids. When we’re in the middle of the moving process, we are missing friends, toys, and “normal” life. Kids make friends almost instantly, so it’s great when your kids ask ours to play.
  3. Tell new military families about your favorite local restaurants, places to go, annual events. All those hidden gems that make a place special, we want to find them.
  4. Don’t immediately dismiss our friendship because we may only live here for a few years. Make horseshoes, not circles, and recognize new faces in the crowd. Our house has an open fire pit policy. We want you to join us—the s’ more the merrier.
  5. Invite us to join you in community events/groups/churches. A woman on my street started up a conversation with me because we both walked our kids the same route to school each day. She invited me to her MOPS group in Papillion. I was nervous/excited to check it out, and I’m so glad I did because I’ve made great friends I wouldn’t have otherwise met.
  6. Not all military spouses are female. Make sure to be inclusive of all military families. Invite the stay-at-home dads to playgroup, don’t assume male spouses are there to be Mr. Fix-It.
  7. Our kids are along for the ride we chose for them. We feel so thankful when you invite them to birthday parties, let your kids play with ours, and when you love on them.
  8. Using the phrase “just like last year” can be hard for us. Don’t assume everyone knows everything about your organization/club/how things were done in the past.
  9. Our schedules are always changing, and we may have to change plans last minute, but we also thrive on schedules, rosters, and calendars!
  10. Say hello. Say hello. Say hello.

We don’t really know what we are getting into when we choose this military life, but it’s a good life. It’s our life, and we want you to be part of it.

Nebraska may not be for everyone, but we love, as a military family, the Nebraska-nice good life! 

Social Media Consumption and Your Children—Ideas to Help

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Your kids.
You love them.
You’d do anything for them.
You want to protect them.
How does that relate to social media consumption?

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But in a world where adults don’t even know which way is up, in a world where we don’t know how to navigate this “new normal,” where we are, daily, smacked in the face with “news.” Where we can’t tell what’s true, how do you protect them?

Talk About Media Consumption

Don’t let the fear of fake news stop you from talking to your kids about healthy media consumption. You don’t want them navigating this virtual world blindly. Talk to them. Tell them your fears. Tell them that finding the truth in social media is hard. Open the lines of communication so that they feel comfortable coming to you with questions.

social media consumption and your kids

Model Appropriate Media Consumption

It’s funny that we use that word to mean viewing media. Media consumption. Consuming media. Would you let your children consume whatever junk food they wanted? Whenever did they want? NO! Of course not. You have meals. You have snacks. You teach your children a healthy way to consume food. We can also teach our children a healthy way to consume media. We teach moderation. We teach the importance of moderation. And we model media moderation with our own devices.

Teach How to Ask Questions

Who wrote it? Why did they write it? Who published it? Are the facts accurate? When was it published? What is the agenda? Yes. Everyone has an agenda. We aren’t teaching our children to be skeptics. We are teaching them to be critical thinkers.

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Teach How to Interpret Statistics

Correlation does NOT NOT NOT equal causation—I can’t emphasize this enough. Correlation does NOT equal causation. Here is what this means – just because two things are related. Meaning, as one goes up – the other goes down. Or as one goes down, the other goes up. Or as one goes up – the other goes up. Are you following? Correlated = related = there is some pattern. This idea does NOT mean that one causes the other. Here is an example.

As the number of ice cream sales increase, so does the rate of violent crime across the country.

Does this mean that ice cream causes violent crime?!? OF COURSE NOT! They are correlated. There is a pattern. One does not cause the other. There is a THIRD variable. WEATHER. As the weather gets warmer, ice cream sales increase. As the weather gets warmer, violent crimes increase.

Statistics are NOT bad, but they’re interpreted in many different ways. Some “facts” are not as true as others. So read carefully.

Discuss the Reliability of the Source

Just because your friend’s aunt’s sister’s neighbor saw it on social media, does not mean that it is true. Where is the information coming from? People spend hours trying to find milk from grass-fed, locally farmed cows because they NEED to know where their milk is coming from, yet, will believe whatever Uncle Buster posts on Twitter? That’s nuts. Know where your “facts” are coming from—research how reliable those sources are. Teach your children how to do research. The internet is full of false information. They must learn where to find the truth.

Social Media Consumption

How to Make New Friends in 2020—A Summer Without Playmates

“How long did it take us to make friends in South Carolina?” my six-year-old son asked. 

We were in the car. I glanced at him in the rearview mirror and knew why he was asking. We had lived in Omaha for almost two months, and we made no new friends. 

Our move to Omaha was bizarre. We left South Carolina without saying goodbye, and we entered Omaha with COVID-19 restrictions still in place. The playgrounds were closed, most restaurants only did take-out, and I found myself and the kids stuck in the house, with boxes upon boxes of our stuff, while my husband went to work. 

We’ve moved a lot. But this move was like none other we’ve experienced. It has taken my breath away. Like a slow-leaking party balloon, I limped along, going through the motions of the move, but feeling deflated inside. 

The first couple of days we lived here, I ate a lot of cookie dough. 

I checked online to see the price of airline tickets: OMA to CHS. Could I make it work? We hadn’t officially sold our South Carolina house yet. Could we go back? Even just for a bit? 

Moving to a new community during a pandemic is not ideal, and it has not been an optimal time to make new friends. 

Once everything started opening up again, we ventured to the playgrounds. My son ran and laughed with the other kids. (My daughter did her own thing.) 

The other moms were on their spaced-out benches. They looked friendly enough, but I never approached their bubbles. 

I’ll have the courage next time, I thought. 

Then it happened. I blew a tire on the interstate while my husband was on a business trip. I had no one local to call. While the cars sped past me, I felt utterly alone. 

With the car in the shop, we came home to a quiet house. I put a cardboard pizza in the oven for the kids’ lunch and crawled into bed. I watched Korean dramas for the next two days.

It was too much. It was lonely—I miss our friends in South Carolina. It felt lonely not to have friends here. I lost all the air in my symbolic balloon. 

My husband, in his way, tried to sympathize. But he was going through his transitions. 

Then, just like that, I woke up and took a breath. It could always be worse, I thought. 

There’s a lot more gold than dirt in this situation. I will have to dig for it. 

We had each other. We would be okay. Right? 

I finished unpacking all the boxes. 

I found the bathroom scale

I stopped checking social media to see what our friends in South Carolina were doing. 

My kids and I spent time outside as the summer sun stayed out longer and longer. We watched male cardinals bicker and became familiar with the sound of the woodpeckers who lived in the woods. 

We spit cherry pits and watermelon seeds off our back porch. My daughter had her first taste of mulberries

I took afternoon naps, and my kids’ made-up games and played with each other

They built forts out of the moving boxes in the living room. Then they moved their fort to the front yard. Then eventually to the back porch. 

The dog became the royal guard to their cardboard castle. 

How to Make New Friends in 2020

Little by little, I changed the way I saw things and looked forward to our miniature adventures.

We climbed the hills in our neighborhood, and my son wiped out on his bike, learning the importance of applying his breaks down the steep slopes. 

I turned on the sprinklers, and the kids laughed and shivered in the sun. 

When we couldn’t bear the long days any longer, we took road trips to see grandparents who lived just a state over. 

We found the gravemarkers of my great-great-grandmother in a cemetery just outside Omaha, on a gravel road surrounded by fields. My great-great-grandmother’s 9-year-old son (my great-uncle) resting beside her. We wondered about the story. 

My to-do list grew with things to organize, books to purchase for the upcoming school year, etc., but I let them be. Instead, I focused on being okay. I concentrated on refilling my metaphorical balloon. 

I read books and sipped sun tea and lay in our hammock. 

I pulled out puzzles and board games. My son learned how to play checkers. 

We met neighbors! 

Then I was invited to a mom gathering for the moms in my son’s upcoming school class. It was a warm summer evening. The sun had not yet set. A handful of us gathered in a circle of lawn chairs, pulled from our mini-vans, in a shady spot at a local park. The women were kind. They listened to my story and encouraged one another. 

I was hopeful. 

Soon school would start, in whatever form that looked like, and my family would meet people, friends! Surely this group of moms had children who would become playmates for my son, I thought.

Maybe this was our summer’s purpose. 

To be. 

To let go. 

To rest. 

And to trust, it will all be okay. 

I’m not sure how the kids will remember this summer. To them, will it be their summer without playmates? 

But this friendless time was just a season—our first in Omaha.

I like the lines from Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem Annie Allen:

Exhaust the little moment. Soon it dies.

And be it gash or gold it will not come

Again in this identical disguise.

I’m not sure what this next season will hold for us. 2020 has brought surprises for most everyone. It’s easy to see the dirt.

As for me, I’m going to dig for the gold.

Safety and Swimming this Summer with Diventures in Omaha

Swim. Scuba. Travel. Gear. Omaha may be smack in the middle of the country, but that just makes its residents love water all the more, right? You might have driven by Diventures, a 12,000-square-foot scuba, and swim facility on the city’s west side, but do you know what’s behind those walls? 

A 75-foot heated pool ranging in depth from 3 to 14 feet. Small-group and private swim lessons. Scuba classes. A shop brimming with top-brand scuba and swim gear. Classrooms. Even a travel center to help you plan your dream vacation. 

This place is simply amazing and it is open for business—with a bundle of enhanced safety protocols.child swimming at Diventures

Help Kids Learn Safety and Confidence in the Water

In our household, we give our kids choices when it comes to extracurricular activities, with one exception: swimming. That, dear children, is a non-negotiable life skill. 

At Diventures, kids can learn water safety and swimming year-round in sparkling clean, warm water. A wide variety of swim programs help children (and adults) prepare for fun at the lake, beach, or pool. Lessons are $80 for four lessons per month for the first student, with discounts available for additional family members. Classes have a maximum ratio of four students to one teacher. 

More than 13,000 students have been through their programs over the past decade. There’s a reason for that. 

“We truly are one big family here,” said Aquatics Manager Marsha Lincoln. “We pride ourselves on having a bond with our families. … Safety is our number one priority and fun is our number one goal.”

child and instructor at Diventures in OmahaTips and Reminders

Whether in nature or at the pool, a bit of caution and knowledge goes a long way toward avoiding accidents. Here are some reminders from Diventures to keep you and your kids safe near the water:

  • Start swim lessons at an early age and let the fun begin! The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that participation in formal swim lessons can reduce the likelihood of childhood drowning death by 88%. Diventures offers swim classes weekly for ages 6 months and up
  • Don’t rely on floaties or foam toys for safety. These can create a false sense of safety for the parent and child. If you would like an extra layer of safety at the pool or beach, have your child wear a properly-fitted Coast Guard-approved life jacket.
  • Small children should be within arm’s reach. Never leave a young child unattended near water – this includes kiddie pools and the bathtub.
  • Teach your kids the rules of the pool.  No running or pushing. No swimming without an adult. 
  • For new swimmers, spend time watching others before getting in. This allows kids to get comfortable with the environment.  
  • At the lake or beach, take a few minutes to survey the surroundings. Teach kids to look at the weather, how rough the water is, how busy it is and whether or not a lifeguard is nearby. This helps develop good safety habits.
  • Be sure to assign an adult who knows the safety rules to watch children during summer gatherings at or near water.
  • Always swim with a buddy, no matter what your age is.

Diventures offers a complimentary swim trial lesson, providing one-on-one time with an instructor. This allows staff to assess your child’s swim skill level for placement in the right class. It also gives parents an opportunity to ask questions. 

child and instructor at Diventures in OmahaScuba, Too? Yes, Please!  

Diventures is the premier place in Omaha for all things scuba

Whether you want to brush up on your diving skills, get certified, book a trip, or get your gear – they have something for everyone. They even offer “Scuba Rangers” classes for kids as young as 8 years old. Want to try diving before committing to certification? A quick “Try Scuba” class is the perfect introduction. 

Already know you love it? The Landlocked Scuba Club is a neat way to practice diving close to home. The group recently took a trip to Sandy Channel.  And they dive at the Quarry in Atlantic, Iowa. In other words, no ocean necessary to enjoy scuba. 

But… if you prefer tropical fish and coral, Diventures arranges and leads many dive trips throughout the world and can create custom adventures. Anyone is welcome, whether a diver or not.

Safety First… Always

These are unusual times. 

Diventures understands. The safety and well-being of customers and staff is their top priority. They sanitize the pool water using sand filters, chlorination, and UV filters. And they have redesigned their swim and scuba programs to meet all safety and health guidelines. The enhanced processes include:

  • Maintaining a physical distance of 6 feet between family groups and staff
  • Disinfecting all equipment after each use and frequently disinfecting all commonly touched areas
  • Staff members have their temperature checked and are screened for symptoms 
  • Customers are being asked to self-screen for symptoms and risk factors

Omaha Roots

Diventures began its journey in Omaha in 2009. Since then, it has expanded to five locations in four states. It’s the nation’s largest and fastest-growing swim and scuba center. 

“We have many families who have been with us for the duration of our business,” Lincoln said. “We have kids who start in Baby and Me classes and are with us through swim team.  We also have teachers who started out as students.”

Cool. 

About Diventures

Waves of Rage and Emotion During A Global Pandemic

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Rage and emotion come to me in waves. Each one gets bigger and more powerful until they take me completely over. I’ve never felt like this before—I am not me. This situation is unfamiliar territory, and I’m drowning in it.

Waves of Rage and Emotion
Photo by Emiliano Arano from Pexels

These are my waves of rage and emotion.

Guilt

I’m a mother of three healthy children and a public school teacher. My husband and I kept our jobs through the pandemic, and we live in a cul-de-sac in a suburb. All of these facts help guilt enter when I rage about our current situation, but guilt doesn’t make it go away. This chaos isn’t the world we pictured for our kids. All moms, everywhere, feel like we’re drowning in rage and emotion.

Denial

I remember when it started. I wrapped up a class at the end of the day when the announcement came that we would not be returning to school before spring break. I watched the seniors take in the reality that this was the last moment they’d be in this room, their school, and around their peers. They appeared to accept it before I did. Denial kept me safe until it couldn’t. Enter the waves of rage and emotion.

My Family

My family of five worked to stay together. But five separate workstations in a house threatened our very patience with each other. We had no events on the calendar. We had nothing to do. We had nowhere to go. I had time to pause and reflect on how I felt. Moms don’t usually get to do this. It felt like more of a curse than a blessing because I wasn’t feeling great. Enter another wave of rage and emotion.

Online Teaching

I taught my students on the computer. I strived to ask them how their days went. Were they getting enough of everything we try to provide as teachers: emotional support, educational support, etc.? Were they eating? Were they safe all day? What can’t they express to me or each other over the computer that they need to talk to someone? Each sweet yet sad face over Zoom worried me—more waves of rage and emotion.

George Floyd

Someone’s baby, brother, uncle, father murdered on the screen—protests, hate speech, demands for change. Our country seemed to be on fire, literally and figuratively. My kids came to me with questions, and I tried my best to explain what happens to people when they forget other people are human. I told my school-agers about the luxury they have to see people as classmates, teammates, and friends. When our kids are young, they have the gift of humanity—that is the luxury of children. In school, they get to hear others’ experiences because they are forced to be around other people all day, face-to-face. If only adults could listen to each other. Hate is much harder face-to-face.

Drowning in Waves of rage and emotion
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

All-consuming waves of rage and emotion

Now that we discuss our return to school, we have a whole new fear coming our way. I hear “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel playing on re-loop in my head, except I feel like our country is underwater and on fire at the same time. Parenting this generation of kids is already tricky for a Gen Xer like me. I thought my biggest obstacle was that darned cell phone. Now, navigating kids through the rough waters of 2020 may just about do me in. Trying to find a safe center in all of this feels impossible, with everything in motion with body-sized waves.

But then I remember something amid these waves of rage and emotion.

I’m a mother. A human. A woman.
Moms everywhere have come too far to let the waters of 2020 overtake us.

So I stop, I tread water, and I breathe. I jump on life’s raft, and I inhale the good going on around us: my city coming together to try to learn how to be better; my children talking at family dinners about how to keep our community and our schools safe this fall; my country, working to grow from past mistakes and heal wounds of current ones.

I exhale the bad.
I remember I am human.
I remember I am a mother.
I remember I can swim.

Postpartum Depression After Our First Child—Guilt Remains

Laying in bed with my husband, I turned to him and started gushing about how much I love our sweet, cuddly, perfect 4-month-old daughter. As I continued to explain how she was just the squishiest and happiest, he interrupted, “You never talked this way about her older sister.” Typically not an emotional man, or even a very active listener, I was surprised by his observation. He was right, I didn’t talk about our now three-year-old daughter like that when she was a baby. The truth was, I had horrible postpartum depression after our first child was born.

postpartum depression after our first child“Things were different then,” I explained.

“I was worried all the time and was trying to survive rather than soaking it all in.”

During her first year, depression manifested itself as constant worry. It was an inability to make even simple decisions. Sometimes even deciding what to wear would send me down a shame-spiral that would result in hours of tears! And it also led to a deep disdain for my husband. Through all of this, I didn’t enjoy the little moments with my baby like I wanted to. I was in survival mode. 

The darkness lifted when our daughter was about a year old, and I returned to work.

A while later, the clouds came rushing back when I had a miscarriage. For months, I couldn’t make plans or decisions, directed all of my negative feelings at my husband, and isolated myself from the people who cared about me. I was again in the depths of postpartum depression, but without a second baby.

We were overjoyed to find out I was pregnant six months later. I had an uneventful pregnancy, a great birth, and another beautiful baby girl. When I started to feel some of those familiar feelings a few weeks postpartum, I immediately spoke to my doctor and got the help I needed. It saved my life, and I’m so thankful.

Surviving Postpartum Depression After Our First Child

Now, I often think about how I’m the happiest I’ve ever been (even amid a pandemic), and I soak in every minute with my two girls.

 Those feelings subsided as a wave of guilt washed over me with my husband’s observation. Did I give my first daughter the same quality of care, love, and attention that I’m now able to give my second? Surely she doesn’t remember my tears and sadness.

In fact, I don’t remember. It was a blur. Did I have the wherewithal to act like the happy, creative, healthy mom that I am now?

I lied awake, feeling guilty for not suffering.

Feeling guilty for the joy and laughter and sweet baby smells that now fill my days.

Finding the beauty

The next morning, my oldest crawled into bed with my husband and me. I turned to face her and whispered to me, “Is baby awake yet? I love her. I love you.” Her days revolve around kisses and hugs and helping care for her little sister. Every few hours, she squeals, “I love my family! I love my mommy and my daddy and my baby!”

 Her little heart isn’t just full of love, it’s bursting at the seams. She shows tenderness and concern for her little sister that I’ve never seen. Like our lives together, it’s absolutely beautiful. 

And she learned it from me. I know that even though I was a different mom during her first year than I am today, I was still me. I showed her how to love and care, and give Eskimo kisses.

And now I have a second chance to be a present mom, full of joy, for both of my daughters.

Intermittent Fasting:: Questions, Benefits, and More

At the beginning of the year, my husband and a good friend of mine decided (separately) to try intermittent fasting. It was getting a lot of hype, and after doing some research, they each gave it a whirl.

I didn’t want to discourage them, but I disagreed with the idea of what I perceived was starving oneself for weight loss or skipping breakfast—my favorite meal and “the most important meal of the day.”

intermittent fasting

Even so, my husband knew how I felt. “That’s okay,” he said. “It’s not for everyone.”

I was certain it was not for me.

My husband is very goal-orientated, and for four months, I saw the pounds drop off of him. I was so happy for his success. Due to social distancing, I wasn’t able to visibly see my friend’s success until I parked myself on her driveway for a birthday drink.

She stepped out of her house in everyday leggings and a tank top, having spent the day cleaning (on her birthday no less!), and my jaw dropped. She looked stunning. Her 43-year-old, mother-of-4 body looked that of a 17-year-old.

I decided right then and there that maybe, I needed to rethink my stance.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is a restrictive eating pattern that cycles through periods of fasting and non-fasting (eating). There are many variations, but the three most common methods are alternate-day fasting, periodic or whole-day fasting, and time-restricted feeding. (There are even variations among each of these.) Alternate-day involves a consecutive 24-hour fast day followed by a 24-hour feast day. Periodic or whole-day incorporates fasting for more than 24 hours.

 

An example is the 5:2 diet, five days of regular calorie consumption, and two non-consecutive days of 500-600 total daily calorie consumption. Time-restricted has a determined time for calorie consumption in 24 hours, while the rest is fasting. The 16/8 allows for eight hours of calorie consumption while fasting consecutively for the remaining 16.

My husband lost 10% body weight in less than four months doing 18/6. He ate his first meal at 12:30 PM and his last at 6:30 PM, hence why I teased him that he was simply skipping breakfast. My friend lost 14% body weight (8% body fat), incorporating both time-restricted and whole-day fasting.

What are the benefits?

The benefits are, initially, weight loss, so long as you don’t overeat during non-fasting periods. If weight loss is not your goal, it promotes an overall healthy lifestyle. Also, intermittent fasting can reduce insulin resistance, inflammation, and lower cholesterol. It may reduce the risk of cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke. When fasting, cells initiate cellular repair, removing old proteins that build up inside cells, thus improving overall cell function. On top of all of that, studies indicate fasting increases brain health and leans toward protecting against cognitive decline and dementia.

Let’s be real, is it hard?

Yes!

Of course, it is! I love breakfast. It’s my favorite meal, and I miss it. But it’s also the easiest for me to cut, minus having to give up my creamer laden coffee. Coffee and tea are non-calorie drinks. If I wanted my morning java, it had to be black. If I craved tea, it had to be unsweetened.

If I eat certain foods, it crashes my resolve. One small cookie leaves me feeling hungry and craving more. If I want sugar, I reach for fruit. If I crave carbs, I make sure I choose wisely, or else I’ll feel wiped out the rest of the day. That said, if I fail a day, I simply start fresh the next.

Were you hungry?

I was beyond hungry when I started.

I began with the 16/8 fast to give myself grace. Ironically, I wasn’t hungry at 10:30 AM—when my 16-hour fast ended—and most days, it was noon before I ate. Except I was insatiably hungry after that. I wanted to eat everything! You’re saving grace will be a good calorie tracking app to keep you in check.

In the first two weeks, I was hangry all the time. Well, just not between 9–11 AM, at the end of my fast. I found that a workout towards the end of my fasting period staved off starvation, curbing my appetite completely.

fitness and intermittent fasting

Are you having success?

Yes. I lost 6% body weight in six weeks. Comparatively, before starting intermittent fasting, I conducted a virtual training (running) program. In eight weeks, I went from not running at all to being able to run for 30 minutes consecutively, and the scale didn’t budge.

My friend experienced elevated energy levels and the ablation of mental fog. I did not. However, with the combination of exercising regularly and eating better, I have less bloating, increased physicality, and have kicked my morning caffeine addiction.

Do you recommend intermittent fasting to others?

I’ll quote my husband on this: it’s not for everyone. I wanted to quit after ten days. I didn’t because I saw the evidence on the scale. If you can give it two weeks, it gets easier. Not to mention, the more I read about the overall health benefits, the more confident I feel about my choice.

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