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How We Quarantined: Week #2

 

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By Melissa Face

This week was difficult for many of us.

I found out that I will not be returning to room 301 with my incredibly talented sophomores, and we will have to spend the remainder of our year connecting virtually. That brought on a whole new wave of sadness and uncertainty. How will I make sure they are getting what they need? How will those without internet access continue to work on their assignments? How will I juggle homeschooling my two children and instructing my tenth graders? And for the love of God, why isn’t Google Classroom allowing me to set up a new class??

This week I felt more stress and anxiety about the pandemic, which likely came from reading too many online articles late at night. As a result, I had multiple nightmares about ventilators and food shortages.

  In fact, I felt so negative that I thought about not writing about week two at all. I could just wait and see what week three was like and maybe I would have something more positive to say. But that would be hypocritical of me. I tell other people all the time that it’s okay to not be doing okay, and it’s okay to admit it. So it needs to be okay for me to do the same. I must embrace the fact that I’m not going to feel optimistic about this situation all the time.

I also remembered that writing is one of the main ways I cope with my feelings, and ignoring that now would be doing myself a great disservice. I would be missing out on the opportunity to sort, deal, plan, and put things into perspective. 

This week was definitely more challenging than last week, but there were still plenty of great moments with my children and my friends.

 

Here are some things that were especially helpful this week:

 

  1. Venting – I called my mom and asked her to just listen to my frustrations. I didn’t need advice or for her to fix anything; I just needed to get all the ick out. I needed to explain how overwhelming it felt to be responsible for my students at school and my two at home and that I wasn’t sure I could do it all. She listened while I shared, and then we moved on to more pleasant topics. 
  2. Shopping – I bought a dress online. I don’t know when I will wear it, but I’m excited about trying it on when it comes in the mail. It gives me something to look forward to, and that is important. I also bought a new novel from one of my favorite local bookstores, and that is being shipped my way as well. Thank you, Chop Suey!
  3. Participating – We tried to be involved with every opportunity that came our way this week. The kids connected with their teachers through Zoom meetings; Evan talked to his friend through FaceTime, and we walked to the end of our driveway to see the teacher parade. Thank you, Walton teachers and staff! That was definitely the highlight of our week.
  4. Exercising – We continued our gratitude walks, basketball games, and Wii Dance competitions. We’re getting good at a couple of the dances, so look out! We’re going to have some serious moves for TikTok this summer. 
  5. Laughing – My friend and I shared funny “working from home” videos via text and created several song parodies related to the quarantine. Remember the 311 song, “Don’t Stay Home?” The new lyrics are:  “Please stay home this time, oh please stay home. We all have to; we don’t want to.” And I love singing that new Taylor Swift song to my kiddos. It goes: “I promise that you’ll never find a mother like me. I’m the one you want to be, stuck with in quarantine…” Know it?

 

Because this week was difficult emotionally, I wasn’t as structured with the kids or myself. We slept in later, wore pajamas more often, and took more frequent breaks. If either of them showed signs of frustration with their school work, we stopped and went outside or watched a quick show. 

The most positive part of quarantine so far is that my kids are neither bored nor unhappy. They continue to find things to do even when I’m not entertaining or instructing them. They also seem to be thrilled to have me at home with them each day, and for that simple fact, I couldn’t be more grateful. 

Perspective is so important.

Best of luck to everyone in week three!

How We Quarantined: Week #1

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by Melissa Face

For starters, I am acknowledging that I am in one of the more fortunate situations during this pandemic. I am a teacher, so I do not have to go out in public, and I don’t have the worry of not being paid. I also am able to be at home with my children and help them navigate this unusual time in our lives while providing a little instruction and a lot of love.

Our first week of quarantine wasn’t perfect, but there were many perfect moments. And like most things that go well, the week started with a plan. We made charts for both kids last weekend and gave them goals to achieve in the categories of household chores, academics, and a few others. We also allowed them to make a wishlist of a couple of items they would like to have once the quarantine is over. We hung up their charts and wishlists where they can see them every day. It has helped them stay motivated and focused on something positive. 

Here are a few other things that went well in our first week that we will definitely continue:

 

1. Gratitude Walk – Each day we have taken a walk. On the way down the drive, we talk about all of our stressors and worries. We get them out, and I give them both a chance to vent and share. My six-year-old, Delaney, was worried that Pusheen might get stung by a bee because she left him outside. Stress is relative, right? The point is that they get a chance to talk and be heard. Then, on the way home, we talk about things we are grateful for. We haven’t repeated anything yet, and all three of us are excited to continue this part of our routine next week.

 

2. Support Others From Home – We are staying at home for the foreseeable future unless we absolutely have to go out. We have also felt compelled to help our favorite local businesses who are not receiving the patronage they are used to. So, we have ordered from a few of the small businesses who are out delivering. And we share posts of other online businesses we care about. It’s a really easy way to help people who are working hard get through this time.

 

3. Creative Learning – We have used the websites that my children’s teachers have recommended (IXL and Reading Eggs), but we have also done more learning activities on our own. Evan (3rd grade) is currently reading a novel and a nonfiction book about natural disasters. He does a lot of independent study and vocabulary lessons with topics he finds interesting. Delaney (kindergarten) has practiced writing sight words with sidewalk chalk and baking supplies. There were also several times this week when we put the academics aside and just played. And I feel really good about that because life is so weird right now.

 

4. Get Moving – While we haven’t stuck to a strict schedule this week, there were a few things that were always part of our day, and exercise was one of them. We played basketball, soccer, and went for walks. If we had to stay inside, we did Wii dance. It’s so much fun, and it never hurts to learn a few new moves. (There may be a video on Evan’s YouTube channel, but I’m not including a link. You’ll have to dig for it:)

 

5. Letter Writing – We reached out to several classmates and asked for mailing addresses so the kids could write letters and keep in touch with their friends. (And they’re writing, so they’re learning.) Walking to the mailbox is another part of our routine and something we all look forward to. And today was fantastic because the kids had a new letter. Thank you, Janice! You are so good to us!

 

6. Social Media – There are times when I’ve found social media to be overly negative and a major time suck. But this week it has been a welcomed source of comic relief. Posts and memes have provided distractions and many laughs. (Tell us what your kids and pets are doing, but refer to them as your coworkers.) Plus, social media has allowed the kids to connect with their classmates, see their teachers’ faces, and watch the animals at the Cincinnati Zoo (3:00 pm each day). 

 

I have read a lot of “how-to” books over the years, but How To Homeschool Elementary Students While Providing Remote Instruction to High School Sophomores and Preparing for a Book Launch in the Midst of a Pandemic was not one of them. There are a few things that we wish we had done differently during our first week of quarantine, but we can iron out some kinks next week. 

Delaney is looking forward to wearing her dance costume to “class” next week, and Evan wants to wear a sports jersey. And I don’t have to tell them that it’s not appropriate for school. 

Good luck in week #2, everyone. Be kind and patient with your children and especially with yourselves.

Five Tips for Book Events

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Cookies by Shirley Dietz

 

By Melissa Face

While I am still about a month away from the retail release day of my essay collection on parenting, I Love You More Than Coffee, I have had copies in hand since December. And because I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet (and take advantage of Valentine’s Day shopping opportunities), I have been holding pre-launch events since early February. So far I have been having a blast and learning more about the process than I ever imagined. For anyone who is preparing for a book launch or who is already hosting readings and signings, here are a few things that have worked well for me:

1. Celebrate It! – I treated my first couple of events with the same celebratory attitude as I do my children’s birthday parties. They are pretty similar, after all. From its conception, my book has been a great source of pride (and hard work), and now that it is out in the world, I want to throw it a party! There are so many ways to do this, but some things include making goody bags with treats and bookmarks, and serving cookies or other snacks at an event. This works especially well if the food item fits your book theme. Celebrating and advertising look a lot alike, but celebrating has a much more positive connotation. Remember, though, that the most important thing to convey is genuine excitement about your book. If you aren’t excited about your “baby”, you cannot expect anyone else to be.

2. Host at Popular Venues – While book events are no longer confined to bookstores, it is helpful to choose a location that is popular in the community. This way, when the author and the venue co-host on social media, there is a draw from regular supporters of the venue, even if they don’t know the author. Plus, co-hosts can find fun, creative ways to promote each other’s products. I held my first event at a local coffee shop (perfection!) because coffee is in the title of my book. They created a special drink menu (for the day), themed to several essays in my collection. This made my event more personal with guests able to purchase drinks like the “Mommy van Gogh” and “Sleepless Nights”, and it created no extra cost for my co-host or me. 

3. Have Fun With Themes – Play off the themes in your book when selecting giveaway items and venue locations. I am fortunate to have “love” and “coffee” in my book title, which makes theming pretty easy. I have taken advantage of Valentine’s Day and numerous gift items related to love and coffee. If your book’s themes are less conducive to marketing, consider working something around a main character or even the book’s setting. Check out nationaldaycalendar.com for some inspiration. People love posting and commenting about days like National Coffee Day, which happens to be Tuesday, September 29, in case you were wondering. Take advantage of it!

4. Read for Your Specific Audience – Considering one’s audience is one of the first lessons a writer learns, and it is vital when preparing for a reading. My book is a collection of essays on parenthood, and I have a variety of themes and topics from which to choose. So far I have read something different at each event. When I was invited to speak at a local Rotary Club meeting, for example, I knew that would not be the best place to read, “…this morning I have wiped poop off two different butts, and neither was my own. How is your day?” They may have laughed, and they likely would have understood, but I took the time to find something geared to an older, more reserved crowd. I was glad I did.

5. Anticipate Questions – Expect all types of questions from guests at your event – from the interesting to the intrusive. Prepare some responses in advance that are honest yet upbeat. If someone asks how many books you have sold (this is rude, by the way), simply tell them that you aren’t sure. And in that moment, how could you be? Someone could be adding your book to their online shopping cart right that instant, so there is no way you could possibly know how many copies you have sold. At one of my events, a lady asked me how I planned to compete with websites she could visit to read about parenting topics for free. I told her that my book was marketed as a gift book for parents, and it’s hard to wrap up a website for Mother’s Day. She did not buy my book at that event, and that is okay. Expect strange questions, and have a few responses prepared so you can remain positive on your day of celebration.

Holding my book for the first time this past December was one of the best moments of my life. At that point, my dream had already come true, so everything that happens from now on with sales and publicity will only be a bonus. Of course I want to sell books, but that isn’t the only measure of my success with this project. I’m having an amazing time, and I hope this is the first of many publications.

Best of luck to you and your “baby”!

 

 

Something Unicorn

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By Melissa Face

I read the best meme the other day. “Motherhood means I’m willing to die for you, but don’t ask me to make you dinner,” it said.

I felt that deep in my core.

Want me to rub your back for an hour because you were up coughing last night?

No problem.

Need to sit in my lap and watch the same animal video over and over until my phone battery dies?

You got it.

Want me to wear matching JoJo Siwa bows with you when we go out for ice cream?

I’m your girl.

I’m up for most of the challenges of motherhood, but mealtime is the one event that makes me want to throw up that white flag and surrender to the unreasonable culinary requests of my children.

Having a child with a nut allergy already presented a big challenge. Evan can’t have anything that contains tree nuts or is manufactured in a facility where they are processed. Then, this same child decided to become a vegetarian about a year ago, so he began obtaining his protein from eggs, beans, and peanut butter.

Our weekly dinners of grilled chicken and fish morphed into black bean burgers and vegetarian nuggets. My husband and I have adjusted well to this switch, though; veggie burgers are pretty tasty.

While the three of us are often on the same page of the dinner menu, there’s one more family member to consider: six-year-old Delaney. She has no true allergies or dietary restrictions, yet she swears off a new food every week.

“Oh no. I don’t eat green beans anymore,” she said the other day.

Green beans. Delaney has eaten green beans since I spooned them out of Gerber jars. But now, five years later, they simply don’t suit her.

Then there’s the issue with pasta.

“Remember the old days when I used to eat red sauce on my pasta?” Delaney smiled up at her dad as he prepared a special butter sauce just for her.

“That was last week, Delaney. Last week you ate red sauce on your pasta,” he responded.

How quickly things change around here, especially with Delaney. She is always putting a kink in the meal plan.

Throughout the holiday season, her interest in unicorns mushroomed into a full-fledged obsession. She would only wear unicorn clothing, and she would only eat what she described as “unicorn food.”

“What do you want for breakfast?” I asked her one day during winter break.

“Uhm…something unicorn!”

“What does that even mean, Delaney?”

“It’s easy! Something sparkly or rainbow!”

Rainbow?  What can I make with rainbows that my child will eat? Sprinkles? They are pure sugar. How about rainbow sprinkles mixed into Greek yogurt? That’s a semi-nutritious breakfast option. 

Delaney ate her unicorn yogurt in record time, and it really wasn’t the worst meal she’s ever had. But we needed to figure out another way to meet the unicorn requirement and get our daughter to eat something healthy.

My husband had a brilliant plan. He arranged all of Delaney’s favorite fruits and vegetables in a rainbow display on her plate. She had rows of beets, corn, carrots, grapes, and avocado. It was gorgeous. 

But she wouldn’t eat it. She turned her nose up at it and refused to take a bite.

“The things are touching,” she complained. “All of the foods are touching!”

I realize that we should be stricter with her at times, perhaps make her sit at the table until she has eaten something substantial, or limit her options at meal times. But we have tried these tactics. I have sat at the table with Delaney for over an hour before. My husband has, too. I have watched her gag on food we insisted she try, and I’ve lost sleep because she was willing to go to bed without dinner one night when we didn’t cater to her picky ways. My child went to bed hungry, and I felt awful.

Dinner time, what should be a pleasant opportunity for catching up and discussing our days, is more of a battle of wills in my house. It’s an exercise of mental strength and stamina, a guessing game of “what is my child going to eat tonight?”, a vicious cycle of heating up food and allowing it to cool off again. And again. And again.

Early in parenthood, I swore I would never let my children dictate our dinner menu. We wouldn’t allow that. I imagined smiling, grateful children who happily tried the food that we placed in front of them. But I’m starting to think that children who are agreeable at meal times are mythical creatures. They are the real unicorns.

Motherscope Magazine – Issue 2

 

Motherscope magazine came up in a Google search when I was looking for places to submit my essays. The founder and editor was looking for submissions on motherhood and choice. I had the perfect piece in mind. I polished it up a bit, sent it in, and…it was accepted!

I have not been able to put this publication down since I received it a few days ago. It’s gorgeous, real, moving, inspirational, and everything else that is reflected in motherhood. Order your own copy of Issue 2 at http://www.motherscope.com. While you’re waiting for it to arrive, check out my essay below:

 

Having It All: Another Myth of Motherhood

 

by Melissa Face

When my daughter’s kindergarten teacher called me at 10:00 in the morning, I stepped outside my own classroom and took her call. Delaney had woken up with a cough and hoarse voice, and though I was hoping she would get through the school day, I was also expecting she might not.

“Delaney is asking to go home,” her teacher said. “She’s upset and saying she just wants her mama.”

“Tell her I will be there in a few minutes. I need to write down some sub plans,” I told Delaney’s teacher.

I could have checked with my husband to see if he was free; we’ve split our work day in the past in order to take sick kids to the doctor. But I didn’t. Delaney asked for me, so I made arrangements to go get her. I notified the office that I would need coverage, organized my plans for my students, then filled out a leave slip and left.

While I was driving to my daughter’s school, I thought about an interview I watched recently on The Today Show about moms “having it all.” The guest, a local author and entrepreneur stated that moms can have it all, but can’t necessarily do it all themselves, meaning there are times when we must delegate certain tasks and responsibilities. 

I thought about whether or not I agreed with her. I wondered what I could possibly delegate to someone else.

But for starters, what does “having it all” even mean?

When this phrase is used, it is often in the context of a mom who has a fulfilling, rewarding career and is also fully involved in raising her children. I am not using “fully involved” by accident, either. Working full time and parenting feel a lot like being on fire and not in the casual, upbeat meaning of having a string of successes.

So do I “have it all”?

I get to spend each workday with talented, artistic sophomores. We discuss classic literature, modern novels, and important worldly issues. We practice grammar, complete journal entries, study vocabulary, and improve our writing. 

I am fortunate that my days are never boring or repetitive. Even the same lesson will solicit different discussion topics each class period. Plus, I always have the option to instruct in a slightly different manner, learn from the mistakes of a previous class period, and improve my delivery the next time around. 

Another great part of my job is the schedule. I am able to pick up my children from aftercare at a reasonable time in the afternoon and help them get started with homework before my husband gets out for the evening. And then there are the breaks. I am fortunate to spend ten weeks with them in the summer, in addition to spring break, winter break, major holidays, and snow days. I am “fully involved” in every aspect of their lives, and I love it. 

But do I “have it all”? Sometimes I think I do. 

But then there are days like last Thursday, when I sat in a monthly faculty meeting, listening to coworkers receive accolades for their hard work and commitment levels. In that moment, I realized I definitely do not “have it all.” And the main reason for that is a big part of “having it all”, for me, means feeling appreciated for what I do and the sacrifices I make.

One of the employees praised at the meeting had recently taken on coaching the volleyball team as the season was about to begin. That was an honorable thing for him to do; the team needed a coach. Another teacher received accolades for agreeing to take on sponsorship of the junior class, an important and time-consuming responsibility. And though these extra tasks come with stipends, that monetary amount never compensates for the time and work individuals put in.

Taking on more responsibility at work is not an option for me right now. I will never be interested in a coaching position, and it will be years before I can dedicate the time required to serve as a class sponsor. At that meeting, I felt like if these are the things that bring the most value to the school and constitute a “great” employee, then I may never be one. I left work that afternoon feeling depressed about my job and disappointed in the myth of “having it all.”

I felt like giving it my all in my classroom isn’t enough anymore. Brainstorming lessons in my time off and right before I fall asleep isn’t enough. Correcting student papers in the car, while leaving for a weekend trip with my family isn’t enough. Working while worrying about a feverish child isn’t enough. And finding the mental energy to type up lesson plans at 5:00 in the morning, after cleaning vomit off my five-year-old daughter isn’t enough.

 It isn’t enough anymore. And was it ever enough?

The really sad thing is that there are few careers with schedules more conducive to parenting than a teaching job. And though I have never had my sick leave or time off questioned in my current position, I was reminded of my days missed on a summative evaluation at a previous school. I had to sign off on a document that stated I had missed 25 days during that contract year, the year I gave birth to my first child. Never mind the fact that I had to use my own sick leave for some days; some were unpaid, and I purchased a short-term disability policy to cover the difference. Purchased it. Out of my monthly, pre-tax income.

“It doesn’t count against you,” the assistant principal told me, when she asked me to sign. But I felt it was unfair for them to type my maternity leave on my end of year evaluation in the first place. My husband didn’t have to sign anything about his paternity leave at his job. It served as another reminder of never being able to give enough as a working mother.

So do I “have it all”?

I definitely do not. But I do have what is important. I have a husband who believes I can do anything I want and who helps me every step of the way. I have two children who are curious, interesting and kind and who appreciate everything they have and everything I do for them.

 I have a job that makes a difference, coworkers who are supportive, and students who try their best to make up for the areas in which our government has fallen short.

Teaching, though I do love it, is not my sole identity. I won’t burn my candle to the end for this job or any other. And I shouldn’t be asked to in order to feel valued.

At this stage of life, no one needs me more than my two children do. So if choosing them means that my name is never called for employee of the month at a faculty meeting, I can live with that. 

I don’t need to “have it all.” I just need what matters.