That Time I Thought My Grandma Might Be Racist

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I am a Black woman. I am a Black woman with a White mother. I am bi-racial. I am a bi-racial Black woman.

I have ALWAYS known I am Black. I have always known that RACISM is real.  

My earliest childhood memory is of our neighbors across the street throwing rocks into our yard because my mother was married to a Black man. I remember my parents’ warnings – do not go across the street – those people are dangerous. I remember them calling my mother a “n****r lover”.  It was the first time I had heard that word. I was three years old.  My KNOWING I was Black. My KNOWING what racism looks like at three years old.

These KNOWINGS kept me safe.  

I remember the second time I heard the N-word. I was in the backseat of my maternal White grandmother’s car. I was about ten years old. My grandmother was honked at by the driver she cut off. She yelled at the man; “Don’t look at ME like that you N****r!”.  I was frozen. I remember looking into her rearview mirror.  My eyes locked with hers – mine filled with tears. She was embarrassed. I was hurt. She looked ashamed. I was appalled. She was remorseful. I was terrified.  

My grandmother instantly apologized to me; “I am so sorry Leah” she said.  I replied, “But he is the one you SHOULD be apologizing to”.  We NEVER discussed it again. I never told my mother. I never told my siblings or my cousins what had happened. I swallowed this pain that cut me to the core. Though I was a child that surely deserved protection, I felt like I needed to protect her.  

Race is a funny thing. It is purely a social construct.

Over time, my mother’s family evolved their thinking. My grandmother loved me dearly. I am certain I was her favorite. My grandmother was also a racist. 

I remember growing up never seeing other people of color enter her home. I remember my father waiting in the driveway when I was a child.  He was not welcome in her home. I remember my older brother being invited to church with my grandmother – he could pass for White. I was never invited – instead I, her darkest grandchild, would stay at her home alone. I remember my grandmother calling me a “picaninny” as a term of endearment. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew it was a racial slur.  My grandmother loved me – and for a period of time in her life, my grandmother was also a racist. 

I remember laughing, traveling, eating out, and shopping with my grandmother. I spent nearly every weekend of my childhood at her home.  She attended every school program, concert, graduation, and awards ceremony. She ALWAYS made sure I had what I needed. She cheered my success and supported my interest. She bought me my first concert tickets – Michael Jackson – when I was in eighth grade. 

My grandmother cared for me and filled in the gaps – like all grandparents do. She helped me prepare to go to college, an HBCU (Historically Black College/University, clear across the country in Virginia. She called me frequently, sent care packages, told me she was proud of me, and always told me she loved me.  

My grandmother, for a time in her life, was a racist. 

In some ways, my grandmother taught me some of my most profound lessons on racism. Racism is hurtful. Racism is sometimes unconscious. Racism can be blatant. Racism hurts, and the pain does not ease with time. My grandmother was a White woman. My grandmother had a Black granddaughter.  

My grandmother was a racist. I am a BLACK WOMAN. I am a Black woman with a White mother. I am bi-racial. Having a White mother NEVER protected me from racism. I am a bi-racial Black woman. I am complicated. My story is layered. 

My grandmother was a white woman. She had a Black granddaughter. My grandmother’s racism taught me about forgiveness. My grandmother’s racism taught me about resilience. My grandmother helped me to become the woman I am today. Without her love, I would have been lost.

My grandmother showed me that LOVE is the key to conquering hate.

Relationships matter and they make all the difference in changing beliefs. Because she loved me, my grandmother changed. Because of her, I remain hopeful and committed to eradicating racism from the minds and hearts of our nation.   

bi-racial family

A special thank you to guest author Leah Walker for sharing her heart with us! 

Leah Dozier Walker is a proud powerhouse mom of two daughters. Leah has devoted her career to public service and social justice. Leah currently serves as the Director for Equity and Community Engagement at the Virginia Department of Education where she leads statewide efforts aimed at advancing education equity, closing the achievement gap, and decreasing disproportionality in student outcomes.  Leah recently completed terms on the Virginia Indian Advisory Board and the Governor’s Board for Service and Volunteerism.  In 2018, Style Weekly named Leah to its annual “Power List” as one of the most influential people in education in the Richmond region and in 2020 VCU named her to its annual alumni power list.  

Leah writes and inspires other through her blog and has been published on various sites.  To follow her and be inspired to create change, head to BeImpacted. 

 

 

I Want to Remember the Little Things…

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From the moment I saw you,
I started to pray.
Big prayers and small ones
I have sent God’s way.

I prayed you felt safe,
full of joy and content.
When I whispered “I love you,”
you knew what I meant.

Y’all. This book nearly tore my mama heart apart. It’s called When I Pray for You by Matthew Paul Turner. I saw it on Amazon and thought it looked so sweet, so when it came I opened it to read the first few pages, and by the end of the second page I was in tears. By the last page, I was a complete mess standing in my kitchen with mascara running down my face. That night, I let my husband read it to our daughter before bedtime. He too had big tears rolling down his face by the end.

There are days that I feel like I’m just going through the motions of being a mama.

There are days when I’m so overwhelmed and tired of the little things, but forget to stop and remember that those little things are what I want to remember the most. I want to remember when my sweet girl runs around the kitchen with a wooden spoon and her cup, and happily plays while the million toys she has lay scattered in the living room. I want to remember the mornings where she’s in our room helping me get ready and tries to put on my shoes. I want to remember how she laughs when I brush my teeth with my toothbrush. How she pretends to put on her “makeup” with one of my old makeup brushes. I want to remember all the kisses and BIG hugs she gives.

And even though I get tired of hearing it

I want to remember how her face lights up when she hears the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse show come on the TV just for her. I want to remember how she pats her little legs and calls the dog to come to her. The squeals of delight she lets loose as she swings and I jump around and scare her. I want to remember all the words she says, and all the people she waves to and the big grin she gives us when we read books to her. The way she clasps her little hands together because she wants you to say the blessing with her before she eats, or say her prayers with her at bedtime. The sheer joy and excitement on her face when she sees her daddy and how she says “mama.”

I want to remember the little things
Photo credit: Kiersten Russo of MileStone Photography, Richmond, VA

 

We prayed so hard for her.

We prayed for God to bless us with her, and now that he has, I don’t ever want to forget how blessed I am to be a mama…her mama. If I could bottle up my love for her, I’d run out of bottles, because it is infinite. I pray every day that I don’t let the mundane things get to me. That I remember the little things and remember the gift I’ve been given. To not be overwhelmed and not to feel sorry for myself or wish she were older so things might be easier. I don’t want her to grow up. I want her to be little forever. The first year went by so fast, and I know that they will go even faster as time goes on. I’ve always heard people say, “babies don’t keep and time is a thief”—it is so true. As mamas, I think sometimes we get too wrapped up in all of the things that are so overwhelming that we need to stop and remember the little things. One day, when our babies are all grown up they will ask us about these little things…and I for one want to be able to tell our daughter all about them. 

So, sweet baby girl, I pray you will always know how incredibly loved you are, and the prayers I pray for you will never, ever cease. I love you more than tongue can tell.

 

Guide to RVA Free Summer Fun: Anytime!

Here at Richmond Moms Blog, we’re working hard to bring you FREE summer fun activities here in the RVA. No matter the month or weather, here are some fun activities the whole family can enjoy. Have something you’d like to add? Email [email protected] or add it to our calendar.

Ultimate Guide to Parks & Play in RVA

Read our full guide here!

Rainy Day Fun

Keep the fun going inside. Check out our indoor guide here!

Splash Parks

  • Short Pump Splash Park
  • Twin Hickory Splash Park
  • Stony Point Fountains

RMB Favorite Outdoor Spaces:

  • Maymont
  • Rockwood Nature Center
  • Three Lakes Nature Center
  • Canal Walk
  • Belle Isle
  • Pony Pasture 
  • Tuckahoe Creek Park

The #1 Thing to Do in RVA

Your kids will always remember this.

The Richmond Moms Blog Guide to Parks and Play

parks-play-guide-3

It’s always a good time to find a nearby park or pick a new one to explore! Richmond and the surrounding metro area is anything but lacking when it comes to a great park with space to play, climb, walk, hike, ride, swim, or boat.

We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite family-friendly parks to make it easy to choose where you’ll play today!

At the bottom of this post you’ll find a clickable map to pin-point locations and determine which one is the closest to YOU!

Maymont Park

An unexpected find in the middle of the Capital City! Beautiful rolling hills (literally—have fun rolling down, kids!) and quiet bubbling streams make this quite our city’s gem. A children’s barn at the Maymont Farm and Japanese Garden make this an excellent learning field-trip and photo backdrop. Throughout the seasons, they host plenty of special events including summer camps and a Victorian Holiday celebration. The amount of fun and knowledge gained at Maymont is unending! As they say, it’s “100 acres given for all to enjoy.” So pack a lunch, bring some sunscreen, and let the kids roam free. After all, where else in Richmond can you spy bears and river otters in the same afternoon?


Battery Park

A park rich in history, Battery Park is where tennis legend Arthur Ashe learned to play. During the Civil War, gun batteries were located here hence the park’s name. Push-button lights allow users access to tennis courts from sunrise to sunset. Other family fun options include basketball courts, children’s playgrounds, and horseshoe pits. The Community Center offers a free computer lab and a community swimming pool open in the summer months only.  Battery Park Community Center also offers a variety of recreation courses throughout the year for all ages. Contact the Community Center for more information on becoming involved.

PC: Richmond Parks Dept
PC: Richmond Parks Dept

James River Park System

A vast network of trails and river activities await within the James River Park System! If you’re looking for a challenging rapids course or a leisurely weekend hike with the family, you’re sure to find it here! The entire park system is the most popular park in Richmond with over one million coming to appreciate it’s beauty each year! Be sure to research your park destination as some trails are not kid-friendly. In the summer months, take a Frog’s Eye Tour or Paddle and Potluck Picnic with your older kiddos and enjoy the benefits of being an RVA native with $10/$15 registration! You can access the trailheads and water-ways from both North and South point of the River. Be sure to bring your water and walking shoes! You’re in for a whole day of nature goodness.


Forest Hill Park

Forest Hill is home to the South of the James Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning and boasts a mountain biking trail, a hiking trail along a creek that leads to the James River trail, and a sloping running trail that leads to small fishing pond and playground area. In the winter, be sure you’re among the crowds who flock to the the huge hill at the entrance to the park for sledding!


ARC Park

ARC Park is for all ages and abilities and provides entertainment for hours! ARC boasts three modern playgrounds (to be enjoyed by everyone from toddlers to adults!), swings of all varieties (disk swing, anyone?), various playhouses, a tree house, water trough sensory play station, and a harmony park to explore musical instruments! On hot days, the water misting stations are available for a quick cool-down. The bathrooms provide ample room for families and include adult-sized changing tables. A large, covered pavilion is available for picnics and gatherings. Bring the whole family for an unforgettable play time!

PC: richmondarc.org
PC: richmondarc.org

Three Lakes Park and Nature Center

A park for the seasons! Enjoy hiking trails, picnic shelters, fishing, open play areas, and multiple playgrounds in the spring, summer, and early fall. When it’s a bit chilly outside, step inside the Nature Center which boasts a 50,000-gallon aquarium to give your child an exciting look at the underwater world! The Nature Center is open from noon to 4:30 pm on weekends in the winter, Tuesday-Sunday in the spring, and every day but Monday throughout the summer. Check their site for special on-site programs hosted seasonally at the Nature Center. 

PC: Henrico County Parks Dept
PC: Henrico County Parks Dept

Crump Park

Located within the Meadow Farm Museum in Glen Allen, Crump Park is a great central meeting location for families throughout Richmond. Especially appreciated is the abundance of shade on warm days. Two playgrounds offer activities for children from young toddlers to preschool, and one “big kid” playground has some fantastic slides! A row of swings is also conveniently placed in the shade of giant trees and make it feel like you’re soaring through a forest! A covered pavilion is located between the two playgrounds, and it’s a perfect spot to park the strollers and watch your kids play.


Cheswick Park

The oldest neighborhood park in Henrico offers families a nice and quiet getaway for the afternoon. Pack your picnic lunch and enjoy open areas or a covered shelter while watching the kids play on the playground. After lunch, take a stroll on the one-mile walking trail which is friendly for toddlers to grandparents.


Dorey Park

Your child will most likely go cheering the moment you pull up to Dorey Park. The adorable themed playground is enjoyable for young toddlers through school age children and offers open play and a walking trail to enjoy the beautiful outdoors! Have older kids? Bring your frisbee and enjoy an 18 hole disc golf course! The large pond at Dorey Park is stocked annually with channel catfish and trout. (Parents, make sure you have a fishing license. Kids under 16 don’t need one.)


Echo Lake Park

A quiet and serene spot to watch nature right in the middle of Glen Allen, Echo Lake Park offers a half-mile nature trail around the main feature: Echo Lake. Bring your fishing poles and see what you can catch! Watch the ducks and turtles swim and play while enjoying a picnic, or get some energy out on the playground.

park
PC: Henrico Parks Dept

Deep Run Park

Great hiking trails including some with paved trails for strollers. Lots of covered tables and several playscape areas to bring the family. Open play areas to roam and kick a soccer ball, or a lake for nature sightings and fishing with your little ones. Always wanted to learn archery? Check out their program list to find when Beginner Archery (and other activities) are offered throughout the year. 

deep-run-lake
PC: Henrico County Parks Dept

Short Pump Park

A beautiful new park in the Short Pump area offers little ones age appropriate playgrounds along with a larger taller structure for the older kids. Recently added is a sprayground with shaded benches (YAY!) and a dog park. The dog park includes a “big dog” and “small dog” area. A covered picnic area with restrooms is available for the public, while you are also welcome to reserve the covered pavilion and soccer fields for an event.


Huguenot Park

A beautiful escape in Chesterfield County, Huguenot Park is home to a blossoming Azalea Garden and 53 acres full of walking trails, fitness trails, multiple soccer fields, lighted tennis courts, as well as lighted basketball courts. A playground is located amidst a walking trail which leads to the back of the park and Azalea Garden. Two picnic shelters located on opposite sides of the park are available for use and are close to the main road for easy access.


Hanover Wayside Park

Along with a playground and walking trails Hanover Wayside Park is also the Hanover Veterans Memorial which honors veterans killed in action from WWI to the present day, as well as those service men and women currently serving in the Armed Forces.  The entire park is surrounded by beautiful trees which offer spectacular colors in the fall and breathtaking covered tree tunnels on your hike.  Open areas to roam and play, as well as covers picnic areas, welcome families to play for the morning and picnic for lunch.

PC: Hanover Parks & Rec Department
PC: Hanover Parks & Rec Department

Pole Green Park

Located right off 295 in Mechanicsville is Pole Green Park with seemingly endless grass to roam and run. Walking trails for all ages make it an easy weekend destination along with playground equipment for toddlers through school age. Bring your volleyballs and enjoy the sand pits for some family friendly competition too! Have older kids? The skate park is open for their enjoyment as well as a cross country running course. Be sure to bring along your furry friend, as the Pole Green Dog Park offers space to play for them too! The equestrian ring and stables are also open, but if you don’t have a horse, it’s still fun to take the kiddos and watch!


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Tangerine Essential Oil – A New Mom’s Best Friend

Tangerine essential oil is regarded as one of the safest essential oils. It is one of the few that can be safely used by pregnant women and can be beneficial for children as young as 2 months of age. 

 

Tangerine is native to Italy, Brazil, Spain, Argentina, China, USA, Algeria, Tunisia, Cyprus, and Greece. The rind is used to make essential oil, and it is extracted by the cold press method. It requires 9 lbs. of tangerine rinds to make 1 bottle of pure essential oil. 

tangerineTangerine is unique as an essential oil because it is calming and uplifting. For new moms, we need both of those things, something to soothe the “baby blues”, and keep us awake. Anyone have a fussy baby? Or a little bundle of joy that wants to sleep 22 hours a day, and is impossible to awaken to nurse? I had both, my son now 9, only wanted to breastfeed, or cry, the kid never wanted to sleep, or chill, and my daughter, now 5, only wanted to sleep all day and night, and I worried she would wither away from never wanting to wake up to eat. 

 

Tangerine is best known for the following therapeutic properties: antiseptic, antispasmodic, carminative, depurative, tonic, digestive, diuretic, sedative, stomachic, and calmative. As such, it is popularly used to treat stomach upset, irritability (no mom ever feels irritated, right?), cellulite, constipation, anxiety, skin issues, lethargy, insomnia, lethargy, and as an immune stimulator. 

 

Some of my cool ways to use tangerine essential oil are: 

  1. In a diffuser. Add 3 drops of tangerine essential oil per 1 ounce of water to your diffuser 20 minutes before breastfeeding. This will help keep mommy and baby awake. If you have ever nodded off while breastfeeding, you feel me on this! Tangerine aids in digestion, and stimulates the appetite, so expect your baby to have a healthy appetite while feeding. Bonus your house will smell amazing! essential oil diffuser
  1. Surface cleaner. In a 32 oz bottle, add ½ cup of rubbing alcohol, 1 drop of liquid dish detergent, and 32 drops of tangerine essential oil, fill the rest of the way with water. Shake to mix. Spray and wipe non-porous surfaces. 

 

  1. As a calming skin rub. Mix 4 drops of tangerine essential oil with 1 ounce of carrier oil (coconut, avocado, hemp, sunflower, safflower, argan, and olive oil are my personal favorites), and rub in a gentle circular motion at the temples, base of the occiput, neck, or wrists to calm anxiety, worry, or irritability. This same blend can be rubbed on the belly during pregnancy to help prevent stretch marks, or to massage babies feet and belly to soothe. 

 

  1. Flavoring for Food. Many people also use tangerine essential oil in their food for flavoring and to boost their metabolism, and immunity. Check out this recipe for Tangerine Paradise Punch. Or this cool granola bar recipe. 

 

  1. In the Bath. Tangerine essential oil can be added to the bath for a calming effect and for the yummy aroma. Add up to 8 drops to mommy’s bathwater, or 1 drop for baby’s bathwater. Mix in with the water prior to getting into the tub or placing the baby into the tub. 

essential oil bath

  1. As a DIY toner. In an 8 oz bottle, put 4 oz of witch hazel, add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, add 16 drops of tangerine essential oil, and fill the rest of the way with distilled water. Shake. Apply daily after washing your face to tighten pores, and increase glow by encouraging your skin to purge away dead cells. 

 

So brighten up buttercup, and smell amazing while doing so!

 

Brandi Bovell is a part-time licensed massage therapist, aesthetician, certified natural health coach, marketing coach, and a totally wonderful business owner.   She is a FULL-TIME superhero and mom.  You can follow her here. 

Brandi

Sending Smiles

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The Eagle Scout Project is often one of the most important experiences of teens that participate in the Boy Scouts of America scouting program. This year a young man looking for our help to create his Eagle Scout Project. He will be sending smiles to some of those that need it most. 

As we know, we are experiencing some of the largest hit areas of the nation when it comes to our long term care facilities.  Families are not allowed to visit loved ones and other than the folks who work there, there are no additional people allowed in or out of these locations, to reduce the spread of the virus.  It isn’t difficult to see that their residents and staff may be in need of some cheer! 

Joseph Ferry is with Troop 442 and his project is brightening the days of the many elderly folks who reside in our local nursing homes.  They are feeling scared and isolated since the outbreak of COVID-19.  Here’s where we come in.  We can send cards of happiness or have our children make drawings and homemade cards of encouragement to members of these communities. By sending a card for seniors we are making a difference and impacting our community one smile at a time. 

Here are some ideas for your card:

Just say Hi or Hello

Name * School * Age * Pets * Family

Your Favorite things!

Hobbies * Favorite Sports * Favorite Video Games * Favorite School Subject * Pets * Favorite foods * Favorite book/series/author * Art/Drawings

Tell them what fun things you have been doing during Quarantine

Tell them to stay safe * to stay happy * and have Hope

Sending smiles can be simple or complex – your project is entirely up to you. 

 

For those writing letters, remember, the more you include the more you can positively impact their day.

RVA Cards that Care

I’ve got my cards ready – now what?

As we know contact is difficult so Joseph is tracking his project through email and social media. To help Joseph track how many cards are being sent you can either:

  1. Take a picture and put it on @ (Cards that care) or RMB – Let’s see all of the pictures.

                  email him at [email protected]

                  email Richmond Moms Blog at [email protected] with Cards that Care in the subject

We’ll be tracking it here for him too! We can’t wait to see all of the different places you will be sending smiles. 

  1. Send out your card or drawing to one of the centers below. We can’t wait to see all of those drawings and cards.  What a great way to brighten someone’s day!!!

 

Please Choose from the locations below:

Lakewood Sr. Apartments

1900 Lauderdale Drive

Richmond, VA 23238

 

Glenburnie Rehabilitation & Nursing Center

1901 Libbie Avenue

Richmond, Va 23226

 

The Virginia Home

1101 Hampton St.

Richmond, Va 23220

 

Beaufont Health and Rehabilitation Center

200 Rioks Rd,

Richmond, Va 23225

 

Commonwealth Senior Living at Monument Avenue

501 N Allen Ave,

Richmond, Va 23220

 

Hermitage Richmond

1600 Westwood Ave

Richmond, Va 23227

 

ManorCare Health Services Richmond

2125 Hilliard Rd,

Richmond, Va 23228

 

Westminister Canterbury Richmond

1600 Westbrook Ave

Richmond, Va 23227

 

Neighborhood Egg Hunt

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Families in Richmond may not be able to attend some of our favorite Easter egg hunts this year, but with a little help from our local communities, we can go on an Easter egg hunt while still practicing social distancing. Just like ‘bear hunts’ and ‘chalk walks’ we’ve seen popping up in neighborhoods all over America, our egg hunt works best if lots of neighbors (young and old) participate. So, spread the word in your local neighborhood! 

 

How It Works

Download and print the Neighborhood Egg Hunt 2020 page. 

Decorate your favorite egg any way that you want!

Display your egg(s) in your windows by Wednesday, April 8th.

Egg Hunt April 8th – 12th

Go on an egg hunt with your family (or by yourself ?) to see how many eggs you can find! *Don’t forget* to take a picture of the beautiful eggs you find and share to https://www.facebook.com/richmondmomsblog FB thread and tag @richmondmomsblog on social media! Let’s see how many neighborhoods get represented! 

Life Virtually

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“How do I look?” My ‘almost’ four-year-old spins around, admiring her sparkly, pink leotard.  “Great, great,” I tell her, handing over her matching pink ballet slippers, “but we need to hurry so we can get to class a few minutes early.”  With her hair in a high ponytail and a beaming smile adorning her young face, she is excited to see her dance friends again. She is practically hyper about seeing her teacher and getting back to her pirouettes and plies.  “I’m ready!’ she declares as we grab my Ipad, rush out her door, down the stairs and to dance class…in our playroom.  

Monday and Thursday night dance class has been one of the weekly highlights in the life of my little ballerina for over a year now. 

Up until this week, we had our timeline and get-ready routine down to a science. But today is different. Instead of a daycare pickup followed by a quick drive to the gym to get changed, Julie (my little dancing daughter) and I have both been home all day-along with my husband and youngest daughter.  Julie will get ready at home. Rather than bounding up the steps at the fitness center and into a large ballet classroom, we are sitting in our own home, comparing whether my husband’s laptop or my Ipad will provide better sound and picture quality.  

Deciding to use the laptop, I center the monitor and hit ‘unmute’ and ‘start video.’ In place of hand-to-hand high-fives from the teacher as the children arrive, she gives a huge smile to each student through the screen.  In their respective boxes, those attending class wave to one another.  

Amid the greetings, Julie looks at me quizzically.  “Where are they?” she asks. “At their own homes, like us” I respond.  “Well, why are they…? Her entire face scrunches. If Julie were a cartoon, a ‘thought bubble’ would appear above her head with the tiny dots starting and stopping. 

She must have so many questions.

Questions she doesn’t know how to ask.

Questions I don’t even know how to answer.

For a moment, I don’t have to. Julie answers herself with the same simple statement she’s heard me say over and over in the past week.  “Because a lot of people are getting sick.” Hearing these words-my words-come out of my daughter’s mouth makes everything suddenly feel a lot more real. In just a few tiny weeks, COVID19 has fundamentally altered so much for so many of us. Yet, rather than just accepting ‘social distancing’ as a termination of so many of our beloved activities and pastimes, we are finding ways to keep on keeping on-virtually.

Whether you are super tech-savvy, stumbling through the keyboard, or – like me – somewhere in the middle, user-friendliness is a top priority for most programming.  Take Zoom, for example. All you do is download the app. Then, when you open it, you just plug in the meeting number and voila! You’ve joined your first virtual group situation!  Within two weeks, my rudimentary knowledge and very sporadic use transformed into high familiarity and frequent usage. Now, my oldest has both a Zoom Virtual Dance Class and a Zoom Virtual Storytime with her daycare class twice a week.  This weekend, my entire family is planning to attend our first ‘Virtual Gender Revelation.’ I am learning how to be a Zoom meeting leader so that, rather than just canceling the first birthday party for Eden (my youngest,) we can allow our friends and extended family to celebrate with us-virtually.

But it’s not just Zoom.  Facetime and Whatsapp functions allow families and friends to feel connected through the phone. Remote employees can use Skype for real-time chat and musicians are live streaming living room concerts.  Want to go to church? Need to do some shopping? Looking for a class? Or you just want to get your little ones together for a playdate. Maybe one (with lots of wine!) for mommy too? There’s a way to do these activities without (as much) risk of germs spreading.  

Yet, as much as ‘virtual’ has made possible during these difficult times, it cannot truly be a substitution. 

Like many, I would love to go out to a restaurant again. My muscles need some serious gym time and I might be having Target withdrawal.  But I can deal with all that. Being unable to let my little girls go over to Nonna’s house after she drove all the way from Florida to be with us?  That’s where the abilities of ‘virtual’ end and my real struggles begin. My younger sister is a critical care nurse. Right now, all I want to do is embrace her, take her hand, and tell her in person that I love her.  More than anything, I wish my family could all sing ‘Happy Birthday’ together to my youngest-just share a meal and some cake during this major milestone.

No matter how far technology has come, a computer can’t replace a hug.  

I miss the way things were a few weeks ago.  I want a night out with my friends (or my husband!) My heart intensely hurts when I can’t hold all those that I love.  However, stopping the spread of this deadly, worldwide disease is much bigger than what I miss or want-no matter how deeply. My little ballerina Julie’s “a lot of people are getting sick” is about 460 COVID19 cases just in Virginia and hundreds of thousands of cases worldwide.  So, for now, I’ll accept all the apps, download the weekly sermons, and give air hugs and kisses over facetime. We will do virtual dance classes and storytime for as long as needed. No, it’s not the same-not even close, but it’s certainly better than total isolation. Not only for us but for our children.  While there are so many unanswerable questions right now, one definitive is that the better we all do at living virtually, the closer our society can get to be virus-free.

Moms, If You’re Tired of Social Distancing, Read This

Okay, here we are in a completely new world from a month ago, even a few weeks ago depending on where you live. 

And let’s be honest, it’s a crazy world that none of us have ever been in before.

Right now I’m being bombarded by e-mails and charts and suggestions from people on what to do with kids at home. Most of us don’t have experience homeschooling, but even more than that, we aren’t used to seeing people for all day every day, for weeks and weeks, and maybe months and months. And although there are parts of life that all families probably share, the fact is that each family is very unique.

So hear this: we are all in this together (while social distancing), but you can choose how to make it work for your own family.

What I’m trying to say is if charts like this freak you out, don’t use one. If an article like this about throwing any schedule out makes you roll your eyes, don’t follow it. You’re heard of “you do you.”  Now we’re in the middle of “families figure it out.”

But don’t forget you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself, Moms. 

It always seems that every time cultural life changes, different high standards are placed on moms.

Before it was either stay home and do all the things or work part time and do all the things or work full-time and do all the things. Now that most of us need to stay home, it’s like we are all being put in the same box and held to specific standards whether we are still working or not (either way being with people 24/7 is HARD)

And y’all, I’ll be honest, I am not qualified to do all of the things – I do not have an elementary teaching degree, I don’t know what all of the state standards are for every subject they would be learning, I don’t have a music or physical education or art or counseling or nursing or librarian degree! That’s why I normally send them to school!

But with schools closed right now, the only thing we NEED to do is what is best for our family.

What does that look like for your family? I have absolutely no idea, but let me give you only a very few suggestions. At the most basic level, we will keep them alive, clothed and fed. If you do that these next weeks or months, then great job!!

Above that, if you feel up to it, maybe throw in some outside playtime. How long? Who knows? Do you remember when you were a kid and you would spend hours and hours playing outside? Do you remember how much you learned and how it increased your creativity? So don’t worry how long, just see how they are doing and go from there.

If you feel like adding on, throw in a little creative activity or some reading or writing.

You don’t need a lot, just try something and see how it goes. Yesterday we tried a drawing activity with Mo Willems from a YouTube video put out by the Kennedy Center – my kids loved it! So we did another one today.

But also yesterday we took a virtual tour of the Louvre Museum in Paris. I have even been there and could narrate it to my captive audience. Were my 8 and 5 year old interested? For approximately two minutes. So after about 10 minutes, we moved on, and we probably won’t try another museum tour for a while. Should I beat myself up that it didn’t work? Absolutely not. We just move on and try something else.

What other suggestions do I have?

Look at your children and notice what interests them.

My eight year old loves Minecraft, so he spends his reading time deep in books about how to build things in Minecraft. Is it the best, most in-depth helpful reading? Unlikely. But has it helped his reading comprehension? Absolutely! That’s a win!

Does your child love drawing? Have her draw different things outside your window or that she sees in a book. There are a million other possibilities, but you know your child better than anyone. And sometimes we just figure things out through trial and error.

Now, let me take a hot minute to address behavior.

Okay, you might say to me, but I can’t try any activities without my kids whining or having a bad attitude. That’s fair, this is an adjustment for kids too. But here’s what has worked for me – any whining or complaining leads to more cleaning or “work.” Same with if they say they’re bored. If you are bored, please go clean under your bed. Even a toddler can put things in a bin.

Works every time and they learn that if they just find things to do on their own without bothering mommy all day, they will have more time to play. And since playing is creative learning, it’s a win-win! You don’t need to accept whining, at least not from anyone else. (feel free to whine all you want or wine all you want as the case may be)

Lastly, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.

You need to ration and rotate your activities to save your sanity. Some days you might get a lot done and the kids are outside and getting along. Some days might be mainly a screens day as you work on things that require no questions or regulating of others. One day you might have a lot of energy and you and the kids are jiving together, but the next day someone might not feel well and you all need some alone time. Seriously, I have no expectations for myself or any other parent at this time. None of us have all of the degrees of everyone in a school, so how could we possibly teach them all the same things? We can’t and that’s okay.

Listen, you are doing a great job and we will make it through this, no matter if you choose to follow a strict schedule or not. And what your kids will remember most is how much time they got to spend with you.

Well, that and the increase in snacks.

 Kids don’t get social distancing tho

 

Cooped Up from COVID-19, Catching up from the Classroom

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Feeling a little overwhelmed, mama?  Right there with you. As a community, it seems as though we were just getting our heads wrapped around this new ‘social distancing’ situation.  We were just starting to figure out how to best manage having school-age kids (as well as those attending daycares that have temporarily closed) home for the next two weeks.  Then, the newest announcement of school closings until (at least) April 14th broke into our newsfeeds.  

While the idea of over a month without school between March and April might, at first, sound like the kind of celebration that would have you hearing an over-excited fraternity kid yelling, ‘extra Spring Break!’ we know that this is not exactly a vacation.  There are official mandates to avoid unnecessary travel, beaches in Florida restricting access, and department stores reducing hours and halting operations. Thousands of small businesses are closing until further notice while events are constantly being canceled.  People are cautious of coming any closer than 6 ft from one another. The ramifications of COVID19 spread much further than just those who have been infected by the virus.

During these unprecedented times, many of us are not only grappling with how to best protect the safety of our families but also struggling with how to suddenly juggle being both parent and teacher for our child(ren).  It doesn’t matter whether our current situation has us working as stay-at-home parents, remote employees, or onsite job personnel. The reality is that most of our children are home. They are going to be home for a while, and they still need activity and education.  To better understand what resources are out there to help our little ones (and not so little ones,) I spoke with a local public-school teacher and received a resource guide from the administrative staff at a well-respected area daycare. Just like all the parents and kids studying at home together, it’s time to share what I’ve learned.

Advice from a resident school-age educator:

  • Parents and students can check their counties’ online student grade book which will advise not only of individual students’ grades but also areas of strengths and opportunities for improvement.  Check with your child’s local school administrators regarding any questions, access issues, or other technical difficulties.
  • Utilize the Digital Classroom to view both grades and assignments in detail.  On average, these classrooms are updated every few days with reinforcement activities and makeup work.  In addition to standard e-mail, parent/student questions can also be posed through this virtual learning tool.  
  • Create a daily notebook/checklist of assignments (digital classroom allows for instantaneous access to these assignments) and periodically check in with your student to help ensure both understanding and timeliness of completion.
  • For questions on the assigned work/how to instruct or help your student, reach out to the respective teacher, even if they don’t see your student in person, teachers are still dedicated to his and/or her learning success.
  • Do a role reversal!  Have your child become the teacher for a lesson or two and teach their parent(s) and/or sibling(s) what they’re learning about.
  • For an interactive family activity, check on ‘Kahoot,” an online knowledge quiz game adaptable for multiple users with the goal of reinforcing understanding across multiple subject areas.
  • When possible, get outside as part of your learning!  Whether doing a science experiment, acting out a scene from theatre class, painting a picture of the green trees, or just doing some reading in the backyard, go enjoy the fresh air!

  Resource Guide recommended by renowned Richmond-area daycare:

 For Literacy

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