More Thoughts on Moving Forward

NC recently moved into Phase 2 of post-COVID life. This wasn't as much as originally hoped for- playgrounds are still shut, bars did not open (there was arguments that restaurants could open and bars couldn't...anyway). But the recommendation from officials seems to be "We're legally allowing things to open, but please still stay home as much as possible."

Babycakes has gone to daycare, which is a big deal. It's helped a, I can't even describe it. I am working 40 hours a week instead of 20, but it's SO much easier. Working from home isn't terrible when you aren't also parenting a four year old.

Although, I do want to say...I feel like the last few weeks of COVID quarantine really saw some growth in Babycakes. I don't know if this was due to my attitude, her boredom, the new stuff she got over the quarantine (playset, bike, etc). But one thing we really started working on was getting her used to playing alone. This has come a LONG way in the last few weeks and I feel good about that.

That being said, she is SO happy to be back at daycare. She is such a social creature...I don't share that quality with her, but I recognize it. I can tell she isn't used to it, because she comes home so tired every day, haha! Things are still different there, because of state requirements due to the health pandemic, but it's interaction and stimulation besides what she gets at home.

Our church has bumped up some things due to the new exceptions to NC's gathering rules. They will be opening soon...and I don't think we will be going. There are lots of people who feel the need to be back in that building...and I am, quite frankly, a little hesitant. I appreciate how hard the church staff is working, but it seems like a lot of effort and I'm just not sure about it. And part of me feels really bad about that. But...thinking it over, I don't do hoops. I just don't.

A friend from our small group talked about maybe doing a group online watch, because our church has always done online streaming anyway. So I am hoping to start with that smaller group and then move on.

We did a photo scavenger hunt throughout town with that group, and then had an outside meeting to talk about moving forward, so that was really great because I got to see people I hadn't seen in months (that I used to see nearly every week). The "leaders" are being very respectful and cautious and I appreciate their level of thoughtfulness in moving forward.

I really want to go back to my workout group...but I have a sore throat. I called my doctor just to be sure, and he did not bother testing me for COVID 19 or telling me quarantine. Probably because I have no other signs/symptoms. But I do still feel slightly irresponsible going out in public without a mask for the moment. So, I'm not sure. I read that only about 10% are known cases get a sore throat anyway, and it's rarely the only symptom, so the odds are very slim. But I have serious beliefs about responsibilities and don't want to be a hypocrite (even though...I did go through all the proper channels).

I was able to get our beach trip rescheduled. Last year we went to Oregon Inlet which we loved, but it's a national park and isn't opening back up until two days after our reservation. The state parks I could find that were near the beach were mostly under construction, either planned or from last year's hurricane we are going to a small private campground. We'll see how it goes, but I think we will all need this getaway.

All in all, I'm basically going to do a slow burn back to normal...if normal is even a thing, I personally think it won't be all the way normal again until next year after we have a vaccine and it's been in place for a few months. But, again...I don't do hoops. I don't do lines. I do calm and orderly and fun and realistic. And those people who need to be out and about? They can have it. I miss my people, but I don't need restaurants and in-person retail and my faith is not harmed from a building being closed. I've come to terms with my decision. The thing that has bugged me is everyone acting like if you aren't going to restaurants every night and walking into stores without masks you are "living in fear." No homie, I was never that person and wearing a damn $5 masks is no more frustrating to me than wearing a seat-belt. I'm fine.

But I will say- please don't be a dick. Not sure why that has to be said, but don't. I don't agree with all the choices people are making, but there is a 0.5% chance that being a dick will help. My mom works in retail and has to wear a mask and take extra precautions now as part of her job. A customer was very rude to her about it. Dude, WTF?! IT IS LITERALLY PART OF HER JOB, and how about "If you don't like it, get the hell out/go back where you came from (aka home, where you should probably be anyway)."

Strangers don't want to hear your opinions. Not if they are pregnant, not if they are wearing a mask, not if they are wearing a mask incorrectly...lament to your friends, your close circle, if needed, but DON'T BE A DICK.

COVID Quarantine Journal Prompts

1. Quarantine has taught me _________. I can handle being at home. I usually do not like to sit at home. On the weekends, back pre-COVID, I liked to go-go-go. My job is your standard boring office job, and I don't get a lot of interaction or movement so I like making up for that. But this has taught me how to enjoy being at home, and how to really appreciate what I have. Also it's helped me realize that I can interact and play with Babycakes and come up with activities much easier than I originally would have guessed. I may sound like a terrible mom, but I can easily over-analyze things and put unnecessary pressure on myself. No where is this more true than motherhood. It's been nice to see what I'm capable of when that time crunch/expectation is gone. 

2. I'm really glad I don't have to ______ anymore. Hmmm...this is harder than I thought it would be. Right now I can only think of things that I want to do. Maybe I'm glad to not have to sit in traffic? 

3. I've realized I've been taking _______ for granted. My family. My home. My town. I said it before, and it's just true- I'm so blessed to be where I am. I know there are good things and bad things about every place people live. But I grew up in a town where I knew I didn't fit in, and always felt like I was meant to leave. I loved the opportunity to live in different places during Hubs' Army service, but we always knew those places were temporary. I'm thankful to have a nice home with a big yard, and to live in a place with mild weather, so we can get outside a lot. Also to live in a place that has lots of outdoor trails and paths and greenways that we have been able to take advantage of during this quarantine. I feel like we are in as good of a place, physically and community wise, as we could possibly ask for, and that is a great feeling. 

4. If I could have anything for the rest of this, it would be _________. Hmmmm. Maybe the laptop desk I ordered on Amazon, that I didn't order until a month and a half of working at home, and that won't be here until I am close to going back to the office? 

5. I'm going to tell my kids/grandkids that this was _________. A roller coaster. Seriously. Some days I love the extra time with Babycakes, I'm able to stay calm and realize that staying home is one of the easiest things to do to help others. Other days I can't shake the concern for my family, my community, my state, my nation, the world at large...I've never experienced anything even close to this. There are so many questions and unknowns. Sometimes I loose my temper with Babycakes. I am scared that she's having trouble processing but can't identify or express it. I'm worried that I'm not challenging her enough or teaching her enough or being patient enough...or being strict enough or that I'm letting her watch entirely too much TV. I'm frustrated with people not taking this seriously, and I'm annoyed at people choosing to believe hype over fact, and ignoring science, and blaming people...and I'm also trying to face reality that some people are ignorant (some by choice, some very much not by choice but don't know what they don't know) and some are just having trouble keeping up (because this is hard to keep up with). 

6. The easiest part of this whole thing has been ________. Binging TV? Sleeping? 

7. I'm increasing my knowledge by ________. Um...not doing this. What knowledge am I supposed to be increasing? I'm surviving and trying to keep myself and my family sane. 

8. I was looking forward to _______ but it was canceled. My kid's birthday. My husband's birthday. My first time attending a local race that is a big deal within my workout group. A local mud run. A beach trip with friends in June that was canceled because the park isn't reopening until two days after we were scheduled to be there.

9. One thing I wish the world would learn from this is ________. You are not a solitary being. None of us are. The ties that bind us may feel loose, but they exist.

10. The worst part of all this has been ________. The times I lost my temper with Babycakes. I didn't beat her or lock her in a closet or do anything traditionally terrible. But I lost my temper, and yelled and it was right. 

11. The most bizzare thing I've heard yet is ________. The crazy conspiracy theories about who let this loose on purpose. The distrust in the CDC and science in general. FYI, if someone "knows it's coming," it doesn't mean they created it or hid could just mean they were paying attention to something you weren't paying attention to. 

12. My binge-worthy show has been __________. Community. When it's good, it's fantastic. But I'm not going to lie- there have been some terrible episodes also. 

13. The first thing I'm going to do when all this is over is __________. I would really like to have a date night with my hubby. This is a stressful time and we obviously haven't been able to have Babycakes visit her grandparents or get a sitter, and our time together has just been...slim, not to mention repetitive. 

14. I'm taking this as an opportunity to _______. Stop. Just stop doing things. Some of this is good, some is probably bad, but yeah. I'm just quitting expectations and worries and literally doing whatever makes me not feel crazy each day.

15. Something I've learned about myself during this time is _________. I definitely made the right choice not to be a stay-at-home-mom. Additionally, I can do more mom-ish things that I would have expected. I do have a mom grove, and I found out where it is and where it isn't. 

16. The best source of entertainment has been _________. Harry Potter & Outlander. 

17. The biggest way my life has changed is ______________. Honestly, how do I pick this? I'm responsible for Babycakes education, which is scary and hard, especially while working (even though I am able to do part-time). I can't see my friends or workout. 

18. One thing that will never change is ________. My family holds it together. 

19. I've been practicing how to _________. Learn grace, both towards myself and others.

20. An average day for me now looks like __________. It depends. If Hubs is working, I wake up at 4:30 and telework for 2-3 hours until Babycakes wakes up. Then we eat breakfast. We may go for a walk or bike ride, or do some supposedly education activities from Pinetrest. Then it's lunch and nap/quiet time. I may work some more or I may nap or read till she wakes up. Then we play until it's time to make dinner. Post-dinner is the only time that is the same: eat, bath, story time, prayers, and bed. If Hubs is not working, I can sleep will 6-7 usually, have breakfast with the fam, and then work anywhere from 4-6 hours. May have lunch with the fam or just emerge later in the afternoon to hang with the fam.

21. My go-to snack has been ___________. Cheese sticks and Gatorade protein bars. 

Show Us Your Books Link-Up: May 2020

Hello, fellow readers! Hope you are doing well. I didn't link up last month, for the first time in what feels like literal years, due to the COVID pandemic. Mostly because, when I began staying home in March...I stopped reading new things. Part of me feels like I have handled all this very well, but for a while I could not read new material. That is a sure sign of something being wrong in my life.

I've learned over the years that when my brain is feeling...overwhelmed, I can't take in new stories. Or if they are new, they must be the lightest and fluffiest of stories that I feel absolutely no investment in/don't take very seriously. Instead of reading anything new, I finished rereading the last 2.5-3.5 books of Harry Potter...again. None of these felt like a good option for a SUYB post, and to be honestly I didn't really want to read any other posts either. Sorry, but I knew I wouldn't be in the head space to actually track or focus on the recommendations, so I took the month off from blogging and reading along with everything else.

Thankfully I finally found my stride and have since read a few new things (if you think I didn't consider just starting back at Sorcerer's Stone for HP're wrong).

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

This book was...interesting. I enjoyed the story, even though occasionally the waiting for the two timelines to meet up make me impatient. But, I keep reading these types of stories so obviously I don't mind too much. Would recommend if you like other Chamberlain books.

Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

This book was not the usual Jackson was still good, and still compelling, but the...twist was really not something I was prepared for. Not sure that it was necessary. It also still felt a little random, both that big twist and how things would have gotten started anyway...but still a decent read. Just be ready for something deserving of a trigger warning. It wasn't the worst or super explicit, but it was icky. According to Goodreads, I rated it 5 stars...I always rate right after reading, so now I might bring it down to four but clearly I liked it.

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Funnily enough, I rated this 4 stars and would probably now move to 5. These ladies are hilarious and I'm super jealous of their friendship.

Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon

Finally fell down the Outlander hole. I love a good series and to avoid falling back into the HP trap, I picked this one. Enjoyed it, definitely see what the fuss was all about.

What have you been reading lately? Link-up and let us know!
Life According to Steph

Preparing to Return to...Normal?

It's time to start thinking about...not being in quarantine. After a month and a half of being at home, working from home, not going to church, barely seeing any friends (and seeing very few friends when I do), of canceled plans and not visiting family, of drive-through and pick-up's time to slowly move forward into a new normal.

I am still not 100% clear what is going on with my work. I've been using some pandemic leave to help with childcare, but that runs out this week as the state Stay at Home order ends. I had planned on keeping Babycakes home with me as long as I was not going into the office, but trying to work 40 hours with a small child at home is brutal. I know- the rest of the world has been doing it for weeks. But it feels like a sign that it's time to get ready and move forward. Not to mention our daycare center has been doing discounted rates for those keeping kids at home, and that is coming to an end soon as well.

I have plenty of work I can do from home, but it's busy work if we're all being honest. It's not pointless, but it's not a normally a priority and not my usual duties. As with most state entities, my employer is updating kind of last minute...our current instructions officially end today, and I'm expecting an update this afternoon if at all. There has been no clear move to return to the campus, but I would be a good candidate to go back soon. I already work separately from the rest of my department, in a space that is not accessible to the public at all. And due to funding, the temporary workers I was with (only 2) have been let go. I thought the official stance was "Stay home," but I don't know if the return will be as clearly defined or up to departmental discretion. In discussing things with my supervisor, she also mentioned some other things I could potentially help with...not sure if she wants me to be more productive with this time, or additional help is needed due to this being the busy time of the office, or just getting me cross-trained since we had been moving towards that before the pandemic hit. 

NC is currently working on a phased return to...normal. Although again, there won't be a true normal for a while. My church is quite large- like, could easily have 600-1000 people on a Sunday. Heard through the grapevine that it's looking like it could be months until we are able to meet together in our sanctuary. That hurts, as church is a pretty big part of our lives and routine. Although I do seriously want to thank our pastors, especially our kids pastor. We have always live-streamed our services, but they have stepped up and done a great job trying to stay connected during this time. They have emailed, called, done daily video devotionals over Facebook...yes, I'm sure they are generic and mass emails, but if I respond I get a personal response back. And that effort means a lot. Our children's pastor has done live-streaming where she says hello to every kid/family who comments on the stream, sent postcards, and organized pick-ups of coloring sheets+snacks. She's also done videos for the kids from the volunteers, and vice versa. Babycakes loves it, and I'm so thankful for the chance to keep Babycakes connected to "her" part of church too.

At this point, I'm waiting on the approval for 25 people to gather so we can have our "small" group meetings again. Since our church is so big, these are little groups kind of like Bible Study groups to help make sure we actually know people and are involved in the church, versus just being a bunch of random faces. It's also a way to help the church pastors know if there are any big needs- our lead pastor is very upfront that it's hard for him to keep up with our entire congregation. We are supremely lucky that our small group has truly turned into our best friends. It doesn't happen that way with every group, but we see our SG all the time. We started out for married couples, of all ages and both with/without kids. As the years have gone by, we sort of narrowed into a demographic of (now) late 20s/early 30s, and we all ended up having kids around the same time. Our kids love each other, we baby-sit for each other, we vacation together, half of us have ended up living on the same side of town and/or using the same daycare...especially for us, since we don't have family in town, these people are our local family. 

Babycakes misses her friends, and will be going back to daycare the week after next. This will be almost exactly 2 months of staying at home. It's crazy...she needs people. She has always been very people oriented- even as a baby, she would rather watch people than play with toys. We have done little outings- like picking up ice cream and eating it in the socially distanced parking lot. She is straight up creepy staring at other kids and families! My poor child. I am slightly worried because...guys, 2 months of being together basically 24/7 may lead to some separation anxiety. And I can't blame her! I went into my office for like 3 hours the other day and she bawled when I left (poor Hubs, he's a great dad but he is essential...aka, he's working normally so it has not been quite the same intensity of togetherness). The first few days will probably be okay due to excitement of seeing people again, but I'm steeling myself for some meltdowns. Especially because the daycare center has been doing modified drop-off more like elementary schools- instead of walking them in and using our keycards/etc, the teachers are picking kids up at the door to minimize exposure on door handles/etc. Not sure if this will be able to continue when the bulk of kids return, so that will be interesting too. Overall we are doing well, but it's illogical to assume these world changes are not affecting the little ones. 

We had a parents-only beach trip scheduled for late June with some a refund yesterday since the park will be opening 2 days after we were scheduled to camp. So...currently trying to find somewhere accepting reservations for that same weekend. After a few months of quarantine, we need a vacation for sure! One friend said at this point, it can be tents in a backyard. She will spray saltwater on us and buy an oceanic sound machine if we can't get a beach campsite! Bahaha. As long as the kids finally get to visit their grandparents and we get some chill time. Yes, we all love our kids...but no one should spend that much time together. It's just not good for a relationship, IMO. 

Also, super thankful for Facetime/etc. We were literally video calling my mom every single day. I hope Babycakes can visit soon. Hubs & I have been diligent about keeping our social circle very small during this quarantine. I think the transition out will honestly be harder. There is no clear rule or benchmark, and that is very frustrating. I don't like it, to be honest. It feels like being reasonable is a hard line to walk right now. My mom works in retail, so will have more public contact (although they are doing masks, social distance marking, etc) and will likely have a harder time getting days off now. My ILs own their own business and have been able to decrease their contact more, and will likely have more time soon, so hopefully we can do a visit there too. Also we have so many make-up birthday parties/etc! Bahaha. It's going to be hard to keep it calm and not rush back, but can go on, and should.